New child care resource hub in Vegas aims to help fix ‘broken’ system
Calling the nation's child care system "broken" and its costs "unsustainable," Nevada elected leaders on Tuesday helped launch a new center dedicated to supporting child care businesses in the state.
Nevada Strong Start Child Care Services Center in Las Vegas is described as a one-stop hub to help new and existing child care providers navigate licensing, connect parents with services and benefits and collaborate with industry peers. The center is funded in part by federal COVID-19 aid packages.
At the opening event, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) said almost half of all families in the U.S. have reported difficulty in finding access to child care. She added that in 2019, the average annual cost of child care in Nevada was approximately $11,500 — close to $1,000 per month.
“This is absolutely unsustainable for families,” Rosen said.
Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) pointed out that nearly three out of four Nevada children live in an area with no access to reliable child care.
“Providing infant care in Nevada is $5,500 more expensive than in-state tuition for college,” Lee said. “Some families literally have to choose whether to show up to work today or to take care of their sick kids or to send them into an environment that they know is not good for them.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak said in addition to federal dollars, the hub would be funded through the state Division of Welfare and Supportive Services. The center will collaborate with other entities including The Children’s Cabinet, Wonderschool, Children’s Advocacy Alliance, Nevada Association for the Education of Young Children, Candelen, Workforce Connections and Nevada Youth First and Las Vegas Urban League.
“We have spent more than $200 million to help support the providers through the pandemic and it will help to cover the costs and to provide assistance directly to workers who are so desperately needed,” Sisolak said.
COVID has taken a major toll on child care providers, according to Marty Elquist of The Children’s Cabinet.
“Child care workforce operated on a shoestring budget during COVID, only to find themselves with increased operating expenses, regulations and decreased enrollment,” Elquist said.
She added that labor shortages have been a challenge because of low wages and increasing demands put on those caring for the children.
“Why work in early education when you can get a job at a warehouse, Starbucks, or McDonald’s, where you can earn more?” Elquist said. “Child care is broken in our country and COVID has exposed our fractured system. We have to do something about that.”
Anitra Lott, who owns and directs Kingdoms Daycare in Las Vegas, started providing child care services after noticing a shortage of child care facilities and providers in her community.
“My heart was breaking for the parents,” she said.
When planning to start her child care service, she said it took countless hours of calling and driving to various locations to piece together the needed information. She said the new center provides all the information and resources that the current providers would need, and it can also be a guide for those looking to start such a business.
The center also drew praise from Chris Bennett, CEO of Wonderschool, an online platform that supports people who want to start home-based child care programs by helping them create websites, do background checks and get their first enrollments.
“I am excited to see the state’s highest level of leadership, including the governor and senators, come here and work with providers and what we are doing about child care on the ground,” Bennett said.