New Sioux Falls day care facility opens amid child care shortage

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — For parents seeking child care in the Sioux Falls area, the options available are limited.

Day care options are both limited and expensive, and according to a report commissioned the Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative, there are several reasons for this crunch.

First of all, Sioux Falls has a large number of working parents. The report states that in the city, 75% of children under age 6 have both parents in the labor force, as opposed to just 66% nationally.

Not only is there a large number of working parents, but when it comes to child care slots, there just aren’t enough. According to the report, nearly 1,000 families are on waiting lists across Sioux Falls, where the wait lists range from single to triple digits depending on the facility.

These factors all drive up the price of child care, making it unaffordable for many. The Collaborative report shows that the average cost of child care in Sioux Falls comes to nearly $10,000/year for a single child, while the average Sioux Falls worker brings home around $39,000/year. This means that child care alone could account for 25.64% of a single worker’s earnings.

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Expansion of facilities and child care capacity are also made difficult by the now pervasive staffing shortages faced by businesses including day care providers. The report states that 75% of child care providers rank hiring/retaining staff as one of their primary barriers to enrolling more children.

Molly Okerlund is the owner of Creator’s Kids, a new day care facility opening October 11 in southern Sioux Falls. When it comes to workforce, Okerlund says she is not worried at this point.

“We haven’t really had a difficulty,” she said. “The model that we went with was higher pay, benefits — we really want to treat our staff well, because we want to retain them.”

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Okerlund says that at this time she has a staff of around a dozen people, including management.

“We hire credentialed staff,” she said. “Everybody has an early childhood degree or an equivalent.”

Okerlund doesn’t plan to spread her staff too thin either.

“We’re licensed for about 135 kids, but just to give you a good idea of our small classroom and our small ratios, we are only accepting 85 kids,” she said.

In terms of planned classroom ratios, she says they plan to have a 2:6 ratio of staff members to infants aged 6 weeks to 7-9 months per room, 2:8 per room for toddlers, and 1:7 for pre-K, which encompasses ages 2-6.

So far, Okerlund says Creator’s Kids has enrolled 5 children, leaving 80 of those spots open.

The flipside of higher staff pay, benefits and small class sizes is cost. While the average price for day care is $10,000/year, Creator’s Kids will be decidedly on the higher end of the spectrum.

“We’re about double the cost,” said Okerlund.

Okerlund says this increased cost translates to exceptional care by allowing her workers to feel fully compensated and ready to go each day.

“70% [of any center’s cost] is staffing, and with our cost, we’re more at 80% considering the increase in benefits and pay,” Okerlund said.

Due to this higher cost for care, Okerlund does not anticipate the lengthy waitlists that are seen at other day cares.

“We don’t expect to fill up right away. I would say within 6-12 months we’ll be filled,” Okerlund said.

Okerlund says her decision to open a day care center is rooted in a passion for children. An accountant by trade, she has also been a foster parent for 15 years and served on non-profit boards relating to children.

“I’ve really always had a place in my heart for them, and there was just a need that I saw and a market out there for this type of more personalized care,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about it for years and one day thought, ‘Well, let’s just do it.'”

Creator’s Kids will be hosting an open house event Wednesday October 6, from 5-7 p.m. featuring food, tours of the center to the public, a bouncy house for kids and the opening of their indoor splash pad.

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