WAUKEE, Iowa – It’s a reality any parent in the state can share with you; there is a shortage of qualified childcare providers in Iowa.
The governor’s office estimates the state is short 350,000 childcare slots, and one-third of the industry has closed down in the last five years.
One mom in Waukee thinks she has a solution. Sasha Smiley decided to start a petition that calls on Gov. Kim Reynolds to lower the age of childcare workers.
The idea came to her after she struggled to find childcare for her two boys. When she tried to enroll her 5- and 9-year-old in the Waukee district’s after-school program, she was told the roster was full.
“It’s been an anxiety provoking kind of thing because I want my kids to be safe. I want them to be watched after while I’m doing what I have to do to provide for them,” Smiley said.
When she tried to help spread the word about openings, she was informed the district had many applicants that were 15 but they weren’t allowed to work in the childcare setting.
In Iowa, there are specific age requirements for different childcare providers. Smiley thinks lowering the age would be beneficial.
“Honestly I’m hoping that it doesn’t take a petition for Gov. Reynolds to see that she has the power to put a proclamation in place,” Smiley said, “to change this, at least for the time being, just like was done with substitute teachers during this pandemic.”
It’s a possible short-term solution that Smiley thinks would make a big difference in the long run.
“We’re all trying to work and provide for our families and school hours are not the same as work hours, they’re definitely shorter,” Smiley said, “so we need these after-school programs to be available to our kids so that we can work.”
WHO 13 News reached out to the governor’s office for comment but has not yet heard back.