“I can’t compete with sign-on bonuses and paying $20 an hour at the amusement park,” said Ms. Mossefin, who provides care for children from infancy through age 12. “Even fast-food places are hiring at $12 to $15 an hour here. I can’t because I can’t raise prices on my parents because we are all hurting.”
Last week, she lost an employee to an automotive factory. She has decreased the number of children she cares for by one-third, to 12, and says she’s working much more than full-time herself.
She took home $18,000 last year after paying her bills and employees’ wages. This year — with lower attendance, an additional $4,500 spent on cleaning supplies and the $1,000 she spent on Indeed trying to hire — she expects to earn $14,000. Full-time tuition for a toddler is $756 a month, and she recently raised it about $4 a week. But she knows her clients, who mostly work at the local Whirlpool plant or fast-food restaurants, can’t pay more than that.
“I get it, I was a single mom,” she said. “It’s just something that my town needed.”
The pandemic threatened to break an already fragile child care system. Centers that managed to reopen after lockdowns struggled at first with low enrollment — many parents weren’t comfortable sending children back. Workers have not always received masks and other protective gear, health care or hazard pay.
“You have a situation where workers were already struggling, and then they’re placed under just immense pressure to work, with not only a lack of resources but a lack of concern and respect people have for child care workers’ well-being,” said Lea J.E. Austin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley.
Now that parents want to return to child care, they can’t find it, leaving some without full-time coverage for the third school year in a row.