SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Businesses all over KELOLAND are dealing with staffing shortages and increasing wages to help fill that gap.

It’s a complicated change for a lot of industries, but in the world of daycare, the cost of this essential care versus the wages offered to employees is even more of a delicate balance.

“I love working with kids, I think it’s so valuable,” new Kids Crossing daycare teacher Aubrey Fodness said.

Fodness has worked in daycare centers since she was 16, but in December, she decided to start looking for work at a new center. That search led her to Kids Crossing Daycare in southern Sioux Falls, a daycare center operated by Crosswalk Community Church.

“A lot of them were doing the sign on bonus and stuff like that, but a lot of them still have their rates at $12/hour,” Fodness said. “This one I feel like I’m getting my worth and people are making sure that I’m feeling worthwhile working here, I’m valuable here and that just helps a lot.”

“We recognized that we need to take care of our staff to stay competitive in the market and also to make sure that our staff are cared for and that they want to stay, that this is a place that they want to work and that they feel valued, so as a result we did have to increase our rates,” Crosswalk Community Church Associate Pastor David Bauchspiess said. 

The notice went out to parents last fall that tuition rates would be going up to help raise wages and keep the daycare running with a full staff.

“When we’re not fully staffed it makes it hard to have a consistent experience in the classroom and that’s hard for parents,” Bauchspiess said. 

“We’ve had days where we haven’t been able to go to daycare because they haven’t had staff,” Kids Crossing daycare mom Amanda Berg said. 

It’s a problem many parents have faced at daycare centers across KELOLAND since the pandemic started.

“Everyone I talk to its the same story,” Berg said. “Its not just day cares, everyone is facing this inability to be able to adequately staff. There’s competition to be able to be competitive to get not just anybody to apply, but quality people to apply.”

While a lot of parents care about the facility their kids are going to be spending their day in, Berg says the most important thing her family cares about are the people who will be spending time helping to raise their kids.

“In my opinion, there’s no more important people to invest in than those that are caring for our kids; they’re with our kids way more than we are during the day if you’re working full time,” Berg said. 

But providing a competitive wage that attracts and retains those valuable employees comes at a high premium for parents.

“We both get a paycheck, and yet it has been hard. We’ve had to redo our budget, had to redesign the ins and outs of what we can and can’t afford, and so we’ve definitely had to tighten the reins in order to be able to afford these increases,” Berg said. 

For some families, the increased rates meant the center was no longer affordable, so while Kids Crossing now has adequate staffing, there are 10 to 15 student openings.

“We have 145 kids between our full and part-time daycares; se could easily facilitate about 160 to 165,” Bauchspiess said. “It’s important to have full classrooms, it helps us take care of our employees, it helps the center to run and function and we know it should and as its able.”

This delicate balance of all daycare operations is a complicated and critical system that state and federal leaders are working to address.