By Lucky Kidd, Ad Astra Radio
HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Reno County’s childcare issues are at a crisis level. That was the emphasis from the findings of a market study presented by K-State Research and Extension child development specialist Bradford Wiles to Reno County Commissioners Tuesday.
Wiles said it is a crisis that is getting worse. One daycare center and six licensed daycare homes have closed since June, resulting in a current need for 1,886 childcare slots in Reno County. Wiles also noted that pay for workers and the ability of parents to afford care are also significant issues.
One recommendation Wiles made is to better support existing childcare providers, specifically the small home operations that provide half of the available care in Reno County. “They are the ones that can keep you afloat until you can make larger systemic changes,” he said. You cannot continue a trend of family care providers leaving the workforce.”
The Commission discussed at length the report and its findings, and steps that could be taken to address the issues facing Reno County, for which Commissioners have allotted $4.5 million in APRA funds.
Questions were also raised concerning the licensing policies of the Reno County Health Department and what the study cited as overly officious inspection standards. While every regulation has a reason for being, Wiles noted that a lack of grace on issues that do not involve physical danger can stifle the childcare supply.
The complete study can be read online at https://renogov.org/DocumentCenter/View/10766/07A-ChildCareNeeds-MarketStudy.