Gov. Cooper To Visit South Charlotte Child Care Center To Discuss Stabilization Grants

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NC Gov. Roy Cooper will visit a Charlotte child care center Thursday to discuss child care stabilization grants.

The governor will be in south Charlotte at the LeafSpring Schools, located on Providence Road West, where he will tour the location and is expected to talk about the workforce crisis as well as the stabilization grants.

The visit to the Queen City comes after the Oct. 7 announcement about the historic, one-time federal $805 million investment in North Carolina’s early care and learning child care programs.

The North Carolina Child Care Stabilization Grants will support working families with access to high-quality, affordable child care.

“The past year has emphasized how critical early child care is for children’s development and parents who need to work. This help for quality child care will get more parents back into the workforce,” Gov. Cooper said in a news release. “Available and accessible child care is a critical component of a sound basic education for our children.”

The grants will also help early care and learning programs with recruitment and retention, enabling them to provide better wages and benefits to teachers, and promoting equity for all—children, parents, and teachers, according to a news release.

“Early childhood teachers provide the partnership and expertise families need to ensure the intellectual, social, and emotional development of their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.” Susan Gale Perry, Deputy Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said. “Unfortunately, many cannot afford to stay in the profession. Without higher salaries and benefits—and access to professional development—we won’t have enough early childhood teachers to help raise our children and our economy. I encourage all eligible providers to apply for this funding.”

All private, licensed early care and learning programs are eligible to apply for the grant, including for-profit and not-for-profit, family child care homes, and faith-based centers.

Child Care Stabilization Grants can enable programs to invest in the resources and supports they need to thrive for years to come. Programs that apply and receive stabilization grants may use the funds for a range of activities including: personnel costs; mental health supports; payments for rent, mortgage, utilities, facility maintenance, or insurance; personal protective equipment (PPE); equipment and supplies; and goods or services necessary to maintain or resume child care, according to officials.

“As a child care director, we are thrilled that the Child Care Stabilization Grants are here to provide relief during COVID-19. We have been surviving for the last 18 months, now we feel like we will have an opportunity to sustain the essential early care and education services needed by our children and their families,” said Anna Mercer-McLean, Director of Community School for People under Six.

New Survey Shows N.C. Child Care Centers Struggling To Hire And Retain Staff:

Cooper’s visit also comes after a new survey was released on Thursday by the North Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral Council that shows North Carolina child care providers are finding it difficult to hire and retain qualified staff as the state slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly one-third of child care providers in N.C. have abruptly left classrooms with little notice to parents, according to the new survey.

Providers say despite offering higher salaries and benefits to staff, more than 80 percent of child care centers surveyed report that it is more difficult to hire staff now than ever.

“The temporary closures that many child care providers across the state are imposing as a result of staffing shortages are disruptive to the development and education of North Carolina children and to our state’s continued economic recovery,” said Sheila Hoyle, executive director of the Southwestern Child Development Commission. “As we begin to rebuild and stabilize our economy from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need child care centers to be there for our children and our parents. It’s imperative for the future of our state.”

In an effort to attract and retain qualified staff, many child care providers say they’ve increased wages by more than $1 per hour (which represents an almost 10 percent increase in annual income for many teachers).

Yet nearly half of the surveyed providers say that the wages they offer are at best comparable to those being offered in sectors where employment requires far fewer responsibilities and fewer educational or training requirements.

“The child care staffing crisis that we are currently experiencing is driven by the inability of program operators to pay higher wages without passing increased operating costs on to families who are already struggling to afford the cost of care,” said Janet Singerman, president of Child Care Resources Inc. “It’s time to appropriately and adequately support and compensate our child care workforce who are so critical to our state’s continued economic recovery. Without increased wages for child care professionals, child care programs will continue to struggle to recruit and retain qualified staff and North Carolina children and families will continue to experience high turnover within child care classrooms well into the future.”

Additional survey findings include:

  • Three in four child care providers surveyed (75%) are currently hiring lead or assistant teachers, with about half (53%) hiring both lead and assistant teachers.
  • Child care providers say the need for additional staff is a result of increased social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures.
  • Two-thirds of respondents report having trouble retaining teachers or directors.
  • Nearly half (48%) report difficulty retaining lead teachers, 55 percent report difficulty retaining assistant teachers, and 7 percent report difficulty retaining center directors and assistant directors.
  • Nearly three in five centers (59%) report combining classrooms during the pandemic.