PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.-- Have you had trouble finding child care, especially infant care, in Pinellas County? You're not alone. Local parents are finding one waiting list after another in Pinellas County, and some providers tell us the situation is about to get more difficult with new rules taking effect Monday, April 2nd.
Brynn Fullmer has called around unsuccessfully trying to find infant care for her 9-month-old daughter, Aubrey, since she was born. Fullmer, who also has a 4-year-old daughter, says she has resorted to taking her 9-month old to work with her daily at a pediatrician's office. She says the only child care provider she has found, who has space for infants, is far beyond her budget as a single mom.
Daycare locations in Pinellas County say this is a big problem. Many are full and can’t take any more kids. The R'Club, one of the largest providers of infant care, says every one of their centers in Pinellas County has a waiting list. One of their largest centers even has a waiting list that's 45 babies long! The YMCA, which serves more than 1,400 youth in Pinellas County daily, have high demand for their pre-school programs and a waiting list for both their 2-year-old classrooms and Speer YMCA Summer Camp.
Providers say one big problem is the limitations Pinellas County sets for day cares. In Pinellas County, there must only be 3 infants for every provider. In Hillsborough County and across the state of Florida, that number is 4 infants per provider. Daycare providers say that one change could make a large difference.
Daycare providers are also worried about more changes that will begin April 2, requiring them to make safety plans, fill out extensive paperwork and require them to call a child's emergency contacts if a parent is late for pickup. Providers agree while those changes are mostly good, they do make it harder to do business and could discourage new providers to open, especially home care centers.
The parents of 88 children who attended Rainbow Academy on 62nd Avenue in St. Petersburg are now scrambling to find care as well. The daycare closed its doors Monday after 18 years in business. The daycare closed 4 days earlier than expected, leaving families without childcare.
Parents say it is exhausting trying to make ends meet and provide for their children, while being unable to find daycare centers to care for their kids. Fullmer hopes Pinellas County looks at loosening restrictions to allow her, and other parents, to have more daycare options.
“I’ve looked. I’ve called a million churches. Schools, daycares. I’ve called everywhere but it’s dead end so far," Fullmer explained. “I feel like I’m getting nowhere.”
Lynn Gibson, who runs Lynn's Tender Touch Daycare out of her home in unincorporated Seminole, says she is getting 4-5 calls an hour from parents desperate to find a place for their kids. Unfortunately, her daycare is already full.
“It breaks my heart," Gibson explained. "We need to encourage Pinellas County to relax the restrictions and also encourage more daycares to open before the hole that we are in gets deeper, and it's impossible to work our way out," she added.