Some Hampton Roads daycare centers struggle to find staff

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — As more parents return to in-person working, daycare centers are struggling to find staff.

One daycare in Virginia Beach is offering parents incentives to refer workers as they are desperate to find help.

Le Bon Enfants owner Sheila Stratton said the young workers coming for interviews have unrealistic expectations.

“You’re wanting me to pay you more than someone who’s been with me since the day I opened. I can’t do that it’s just not right,” she said.

Stratton blames the enhanced government unemployment checks many have been receiving for a year and a half.

“We have a lot of people wanting $18 and $20 an hour to be a room assistant. We’re not talking the lead teacher that does the lesson planning, we’re not talking the one that is running the facility, these are just young individuals that got used to the $800 a week,” Stratton said.

Her place used to be a stepping stone for those on their way to a career in childcare or teaching.

Now she said she can’t compete with fast food, large retailers and hotels who are offering big signing bonuses are hiring these folks away.

Economist Robert McNab with Old Dominion University in Norfolk told 10 On Your Side that Virginia is suffering from a shrunken workforce.

While our unemployment rate is low, at 4.2%, McNab said the commonwealth lost nearly 70,000 workers from June 2020 to June 2021.

“These are people who just stopped looking for work,” he said.

He believes daycares will have to increase pay to attract workers and then pass on the cost to parents.

Stratton told us she doesn’t want to do that.

“For me, my core value is to not continually raise the parents’ rate. Parents can’t afford it either. They’re not getting raises,” she said.

McNab said parents already struggling to pay for daycare will be forced to ask for a raise or stay home continuing what’s been dubbed the “Great Resignation” of American workers. He sees this continuing for the next year and a half or so.

Stratton said she believes stable, consistent care is important for children. That’s why she’s always had full-time workers but now, she’s going to shift to some shorter schedules to entice working mothers.

“I don’t understand how it’s going to end… I just don’t,” Stratton said.

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