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There is a child care center across the street from Davine Licon’s home in the northern suburbs of Denver.
The problem is, it only has a spot for her preschool son, not her baby boy Azarius, and Licon can’t start her paid home health internship until she’s lined up full-time care for both children. The single mother has been on four child care waitlists for months.
Versions of Licon’s story play out every day in Colorado and the nation as families grapple with child care shortages exacerbated by the pandemic and now, a tight labor market that makes it hard to hire child care workers. For some parents, the dearth of care — particularly for infants and toddlers — can mean turning down job offers, reducing work hours, and losing income. Others end up sewing their own safety nets by pressing friends and relatives into service, arrangements that can be inconsistent and not always ideal for young children.
Kamarea Garduno used to shuffle her daughter Alaina, now 2, between the homes of her mother, her grandma, and her boyfriend’s father so Garduno could report to her job as a social worker at Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo.
“I tried to alternate because I didn’t want to burn anybody out,” she said.
When snow storms were forecast, she worried about driving the 40 miles to Colorado Springs, where her mother lives. Sometimes, they exchanged Alaina just off the highway exit near her mother’s home.
Groups that help Colorado families find child care say the pandemic has made things harder than ever.