Valley Parents: Demand, tight regulations create long waitlists for child care

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 8/2/2019 10:40:15 AM
Modified: 8/2/2019 10:40:01 AM

When Lisa Williams, of Newbury, Vt., found out she was pregnant with her first child, she waited to tell her family and friends. However, she immediately put herself on the waitlist for a daycare.

“We told the child care center before we told anyone else, including family,” she said.

Even though Williams was on the waitlist well before she was out of her first trimester, the child care center did not have a spot available until her baby was more than four months old.

Parents who are able to afford child care in the Upper Valley often struggle to find providers who have openings.

Even generous maternity leave packages offer only 12 weeks of time off (usually unpaid) and even if parents put themselves on a waitlist as soon as they found out they are expecting child care may not be available that soon after a baby is born.

“There’s such a shortage of child care,” said Lorraine Gaboriault, a child care referral specialist at The Family Place in Norwich. Any family looking for child care in Vermont, whether they are Vermont residents or not, can call nonprofit The Family Place and speak with referral specialists like Gaboriault, who can help connect them with providers.

Gaboriault recommends that parents who know they will need child care get on waitlists as soon as possible, even during pregnancy. Then, they should check in periodically with the child care centers where they are waitlisted to see if any openings have come up. Sometimes, she said, it pays to be the squeaky wheel.

Many people, including Kim Smith, of Piermont, have no idea how challenging it can be to find available child care until they are parents themselves. Smith contacted more than 20 day care providers when she began looking for child care for her son, who is nearly 2. She was on waitlists before the baby was even born, hoping to have a spot in day care by his first birthday. With that deadline approaching she still was not able to get him into a day care. She turned to an unlicensed provider to fill the gap until her son was able to secure a day care spot at 22 months old.

“That was definitely a gamble,” Smith said. “I had no idea how difficult it would be to find care.”

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