Amid everything else parents are dealing with -- navigating Zoom classes while working from home or losing jobs -- some Southern California day care operators are saying if you need care as restrictions lift, you might be out of luck.
As pandemic restrictions lift and more parents return to work, many are finding there is a big shortage in spaces at child care facilities.
Many have shut down or have to operate at limited capacity due to safety protocols.
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"A lot of people including myself - I’m currently at capacity with a wait list of 11 people," said Catherine Scott, who owns Scott Family Childcare Learning Center in Long Beach.
Scott's business survived a year of chaos in the pandemic while many other child care centers did not. The facilities that are still operating have limited capacity due to safety protocols.
Scott says she’s inundated with phone calls from parents who are being called back to work, but have no one to watch their kids.
The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network says since the start of the pandemic, home child care licenses are down 14% in the state, and larger daycare center licenses are down 33%.
In Southern California, there are now about 2,500 fewer licensed daycare options than one year ago.
"I don’t know it’s really hard," working parent Stephanie Juarez said.
Juarez is the single working mom of three daughters in Long Beach. She has full-time child care now, and knows there are long wait lists if she takes her kids out.
So, even after their school re-opens for several hours a day, Juarez will not send her kids back to campus because she won’t be able to juggle transportation and child care.
"It’s been really tough on me because I have to drop them off and pick them up,” she said.
Scott advises parents who are planning to return to the workplace to start immediately looking for child care.
"Don’t wait. Make those phone calls. Ask a lot of questions. Get put on waiting lists. See if they can refer you to other agencies," Scott said.