COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — Challenges for many in the childcare industry include shortages in staffing, struggles in hiring, and the realities of a field that's never fully recovered from the pandemic.
The impacts of the pandemic vary across the area.
"We are like a big family here," Juliet Blackenberry, director of City Kids Daycare, said.
And that is how Blackenberry wants to keep things at City Kids in the Arena District.
"I am here for the kids," she said. "They're amazing...and it does take a very special person to work in this field."
After the height of the pandemic, she said the team and business there are strong.
There have been impacts. The director said enrollment is a little lower right now because many families are still working from home.
"Finding quality childcare employees has, it's been challenging lately," Blackenberry said. "The majority of my staff has been here, anywhere between four years to 30 years. So, we're holding strong."
Concerns do continue for an industry that hasn't fully recovered, according to Action for Children CEO Eric Karolak.
"There are signs of improvement," he said. "But, we've by no means recovered from the pandemic. The signs of improvement include that fewer programs are underwater. And the outlook among providers is probably the best it's been since the pandemic began."
The team there once again surveyed Central Ohio childcare providers in September, some 1,200 licensed programs across Franklin and six other counties.
"What we continue to see is that staffing is a challenge," Karalak said. "Four out of five providers tell us that they're having trouble finding and keeping qualified staff. So, the improved outlook means that only about a third of providers are sure they will be here next year without any additional help."
The CEO said support is still needed, applauding federal and local dollars that have gone to support childcare so far.
"But those things are limited," he said. "There's a timeline when they will those dollars will drop off. And providers are already telling us they're worried about what happens next."
"It's important if they could find some other way to supplement income for these teachers, because they work hard," Blackenberry said.
Back at City Kids, the staff is focusing on these kids.
"I can't speak for all centers, but I definitely know that City Kids is going to survive," she said.
ABC 6/FOX 28 is told it can cost more to hire qualified teachers and staff these days, so that can increase costs.
Given all this, the team at Action for Children said there is help available for families, for example. That includes scholarships for families through the Franklin County RISE program.
You can find details about that and more on the survey results here.