Special Report: Who's watching the kids?

Special Report: Who's watching the kids?

NEWBURGH, IN (WFIE) - When Natalie Clouse drops her kids off at daycare, she's confident they are with some of the best at Ohana Children's Learning Center in Newburgh.

Quality teachers were top of the list for Natalie when she began her daycare search years ago.

"It's important for me to have someone that will fill in for mom and dad and still teach them the academic learning that they need," Clouse said.

But as Ohana's director Caitlin Davidson says, those quality teachers can be hard to find these days.

"There is a challenge because even if people come in and apply, we are new and so I think that instills a little bit of uncertainty, but also there is so much that I expect from a person to look for, even when they're just coming in and picking up and application," Davidson said.

Ohana opened just a few months back after Crossroads Christian Childcare closed. Caitlin was able to bring some top notch teachers she worked with there to her new facility.

She's seen a shortage in teachers ready to work in childcare and an even larger shortage in the ones qualified.

"This is an overworked job, and it doesn't pay a lot. The struggle is very serious, because you have so many expectations for a person, but it takes a special person that is willing to be like these teachers here that can not justify, but kind of justify not making a lot of money, still getting by and upholding the utmost integrity and character," Davidson said.

Teacher Kylie Lang has seen this too.

"There is a lot of turnaround it seems in childcare, but they make think in a school system there isn't that much or Pre-K sounds more prestigious," Lang said.

4C of Southern Indiana is fighting back against those high turnover rates.

This organization provides training and resources to facilities all across southern Indiana.

Director Aleisha Sheridan says this shortage and high turnover is a nationwide problem, which isn't encouraging news for working parents.

"When you leave your child, you want to know that the person taking care of your child will be the person for the next year, the next two years. Because of wages, because of lack of professional development, sometimes we see that continuity isn't always able to be maintained," Sheridan said.

4C is working to fix that, by training facilities on different ways to retain workers and providing training to workers themselves.

"Our childcare providers need the skills and the tools in their toolbox to make sure they are providing those developmental experiences for the child," Sheridan said.

Both Sheridan and Davidson agree that education is key. Teaching the public and those going into early childhood development - that a childcare worker is more than being a babysitter.

"There is so much power in being an early childhood educator and I get it. I know that we aren't seen as some glorious field, a glorious career. But we are vital," Davidson said.

She says one way she hopes to retain her work family, her Ohana, is by encouraging them.

"I'm getting paid in hugs, and I'm getting paid in just laughter," Lang said. That's a reward she says can outweigh a paycheck any day.

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