Sitting down with Anna Jenny, head of the Douglas County Child Development Association, I felt like I’d won the lottery.
Just months earlier, I’d had my first child. A week back into work and just two hours removed from dropping my son at child care for the day, I was sitting in Jenny’s office swallowing razor-sharp facts. For every year that there are nearly 1,200 babies born at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, there are 78 spots at local day care centers for infants.
The numbers don’t get much better if you include the 250 registered home-based day cares. Because of the way child care is structured, there can be a maximum of three children under the age of 18 months in these homes. At group day care homes there can be a maximum of four children under the age of 18 months. Of course, anyone who has been around a toddler knows this is a good thing — it’s not just the Octomom who can’t handle that many babies at once.
So, there are about 900 or so registered spots in Douglas County for children under the age of 18 months. That means that if every child born at Lawrence Memorial Hospital needs child care in the county, half the toddlers are out of luck.
Of course, there are parents who stay home and family members who watch their relatives’ kids. And there are people who are not registered or related to the kids they watch, but they do it anyway.
However you look at it, clearly, the numbers don’t add up.
What’s more, just finding a spot isn’t enough. Finding the right person — someone with whom you feel comfortable leaving your child, someone who shares your values and whose services you can afford — is a whole other hurdle.
Those of you who have found a great child care provider for your infant, thank your lucky stars. I know I do.