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The need for childcare in El Paso County soars to 16,000+ spots

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - According to data obtained by the Joint Initiatives for Youth and Families, 16,935 kids in El Paso County ages 0-5 need childcare. Currently, the county has over 17,000 spots for childcare, meaning the county will need to double those spots to meet the need.

These current numbers mean that parents in El Paso County are waiting for months and years on waiting lists for childcare.

"If I get on another waitlist, it's just going to be another ten months to a year wait on that list," Mandy Gilliam said.

Gilliam pays a private nanny to watch her child but says that the cost of keeping their nanny employed means that she and her husband live paycheck to paycheck, even though she works a job that pays her six figures.

"It's a mess," Gilliam said. "The main need for daycare is the finance part of it, but I also want the social part."

Gilliam is one of thousands of parents waiting for childcare in a county that has the highest population of children in the state, according to data from JI.

The problem is both nationwide and state-focused thanks to legislation that puts a lot of daycare centers in a bind. Heidi Mather, the director of Heidi's daycare in Colorado Springs, says that every year, she gets a new list of requirements the center she runs out of her house has to meet. Mather says that the new requirements will require her to change many of the toys she has out, which will cost her.

"We work at a thin margin. We don't make a lot of money. It's hard with the stimulus going away. There's not a lot of funding streams out there," Mather said.

Mather relies on grant funding and state help to keep up with the overhead costs of her business. She says things like insurance, new materials, and the cost of labor keep going up. After state funding ran out in September 2023 that was helping subsidize childcare costs, Mather is looking for other sources of income to keep her business afloat.

Meanwhile, she also struggles to pay her employees enough to retain them.

"There's not a lot of people that want to work in childcare. It's not very lucrative, you know, you're not going to become a millionaire, obviously," Mather said.

She pays her three employees around $17 per hour and charges parents $300 per week for childcare, regardless of the age of the child enrolled.

"It's a widespread problem in child care. So I don't have all the answers, but we keep having conversations, right? We [will] just keep talking about it, finding data, giving surveys ... seeing what people think," Mather said.

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Emily Coffey

Emily is a Reporter for KRDO. Learn more about her here.


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