GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Child care is hard to find for some Piedmont Triad parents.

The pandemic presented new challenges for child care workers and highlighted existing ones. 

“We don’t have enough folks that are going through our program to meet the demand,” said Marcus Blackwell, coordinator for the UNC Greensboro Child Care Program.

Blackwell told FOX8 there are 10 teachers who care for 85 children, infants to five years old, at the North Drive Child Care Center in Greensboro. 

“We have teachers working 10 hours a day, and that is really stressful on them,” Blackwell said. “That is really stressful on us because we don’t want to put that on them.”

Blackwell needs to hire two full-time teachers. It has forced him to turn away children to take the pressure off his current staff. 

There are some pregnant women who are putting their unborn children on waitlists just to secure a spot. 

“Every program I can speak to does have a waitlist right now,” said Ashley Allen, a work environment and compensation coordinator for EQuIPD, an organization to empower early child care professionals in Guilford County. “Many programs are using three or four part-time staff to replace one full-time staff from pre-COVID.”

Allen told FOX8 the child care applicant pool isn’t as robust, and the people applying are not as qualified as the pre-pandemic pool.  

“There’s a whole checklist to even be able to come into a classroom,” Allen said. “Some of those things have to be sacrificed when we need people that badly, and that’s not a place any of us really want to be.” 

The North Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral Council surveyed nearly 1,300 centers around the state in 2021. 

According to the survey, 75% of centers are currently hiring teachers, 83% are having a harder time hiring now than before the pandemic and 32% abruptly closed with little or no notice to parents because of staffing challenges. 

Federal and state stabilization funds are helping keep many centers open. 

A reason for the shortage includes experienced teachers moving to higher-paying jobs, some paying thousands of dollars more. 

“Not all early childhood programs can support the same salaries that that degree would offer a job in the K-12 system or other spaces that could pay more too,” Allen said.

Child care center workers are offering incentives, joining career fairs and creating flexible work schedules to get qualified workers on board.

Some centers have had to combine classrooms and serve fewer children until something changes. 

“When there are changes that need to be made and operating hours that need to be changed, rates of tuition need to change. Please understand they are doing it because they have to,” Blackwell said.