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"There is a child care crisis underway in Delaware, ..."

There is a child care crisis underway in Delaware, and it could get much worse, very shortly. St. Michaels School and Nursery serves the youngest of Wilmington’s children who are in need of support and a chance for a healthy start to life. We serve families who were struggling before the pandemic; the vast majority of our families receive subsidies, including Purchase of Care, which helps cover child care tuition.

Even as a long standing non-profit, these subsidies don’t come anywhere close to covering our costs. As a result, providers like us cannot hire enough staff or serve as many families. Those families, in turn, are struggling to find care.

Our center has well over 20 families on our wait list, meaning we have the heartbreaking task of turning away families every day.

It’s a losing situation for all involved, and yet Delaware continues to underinvest in this critical subsidy. If our state truly prioritized its families—especially its low-income families—it would support the child care industry. There is no path to returning to a normal, post-COVID society without this common good.

To this point, Delaware leaders have subsidized a broken system, but it is still broken even with the Band-Aids they have offered us. Without help, local families will have nowhere else to turn.

Child care centers have remained open throughout the pandemic—we’ve been there for the workforce, the economy, and the general health of Delaware. We have endured quarantines, counseled sick and frightened staff, dealt with staffing shortages that further decreased enrollment, and calmed the anxieties and frustrations of families, staff, and employers. We have heard ourselves referred to as “essential” and “heroes.” It is time for Delaware to stand behind those accolades and support our work and our communities.

Lucinda Ross, M.Ed. is the Executive Director of St. Michael’s School and Nursery (Wilmington) and the President of the Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children (daeyc). She brings 30+ years of experience in three states in the early childhood education industry to the conversation. Her expertise is engineered from a variety of essential early childhood education roles within organizations including Executive Director, President, Board of Directors, teacher, trainer/mentor, consultant, advocate, Department of Public Health trainer, and Department of Education assessment administrator.

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