Childcare a huge need in county

For many parents not only is making ends meet a stressor, but having childcare for your children while working for that money can be just as stressful. This is a big problem in Marion County and especially in Hillsboro where there is only one licensed home daycare and one licensed daycare center.

“We have two problems right now,” said Erin Hein, Child Care Surveyor at the Marion County Health Department. “We have no options and then we have people illegally watching kids out of their home. We would love to recruit people and get them licensed to watch children in their home so that both sides could be helped.

Kelly Bettles, the only licensed home daycare in Hillsboro, has been running a daycare for 24 and ½ years.

“March will mark 25 years for me. We moved to Hillsboro when our daughter Alyssa was just 1.5 yrs old. I had previously worked as a receptionist for a business in Herington, where we moved from. Alyssa’s grandma had watched her since birth. I had a really hard time with the thought of finding a new job, in a new town, and leaving her with anyone else other than her grandma,” said Kelly. “Now I’m that childcare provider telling first time mommies ‘It’s ok! They’re in good hands! I’ll take care of them!’ That is a transition that will always be a hard one.”

While Bettles loves the work, she quickly points out that it is just that, work.

“The need for good, quality childcare is so important right now! So many people think it’s going to be an easy job, good money, easy-going. It’s not! I think that is the biggest surprise once you get into the profession. It is actually WORK! And a lot of work! I’ve seen so many childcare providers come and go. It takes a lot of your personal time. Even when you’re off the clock. After I close and weekends, I’m constantly texted, called, and Facebook messaged, about openings and other matters pertaining to childcare. FB messenger seems to be the biggest contact source, because people can find me on there and just shoot me a message.”

Melinda Schroeder, a licensed provider in Marion, has been doing home daycare for 27 years and she echoes much of what Bettles says.

“You have to be in it because you like it. You don’t do it to get rich. Just like every job, it is a give and take. When people first get in, they think it is babysit. They think that you sit on your rear, and that is so untrue. We don’t get coffee breaks. You don’t get lunch breaks. You don’t even get bathroom breaks sometimes, and when you do, you might have little fingers under the door waving at you. And you don’t talk to adults much so that can be hard for extroverts. You have to make some adjustments,” said Schroeder.

But both women are quick to talk about the good parts of running daycares. And they most likely would not have stuck with it so long if they didn’t love what they did.

“You have to love what you are doing. And I do. These kids are so funny,” said Schroeder. “And the parents can be great, too. I have really good parents right now. It’s nice to have people that respect that I am done and want off at a certain time. That I am actually closed a certain time. I have very good parents that are very respectful and that makes it much easier.”

Bettles had a long list of what she likes about running a daycare.

“Where do I begin? The kids! The families that become part of my family. The lifelong friends I have made through doing childcare. The times you have kids that you watched years ago, call you up and ask if they can have a reunion party at your house. The snuggles, the hugs, the love you get every single day. Being able to live through a child’s eyes every single day. It’s the little things in life that should make us happy. In this profession, it’s definitely the little people,” said Bettles.

She went on to add that being her own boss for 24 plus years has also been nice.

Both providers expressed frustrations with the demands of the licensure process, but they also both see the importance of it.

“We have to go through hours of training, background checks, inspections. In recent years, the amount of training hours we have to complete to be licensed has increased. Those hours for in-service training are met on our time such as evenings and weekends. We have mandatory trainings, and then we can take other training with subjects we’re interested in learning more about,” said Bettles. “In Marion County, we are blessed to have a group called Wee Care of Marion County. When we meet, it’s an evening meeting. We have KDHE approved speakers who will normally do a 2 hour training with us. Those hours go toward our mandatory hours we have to fill for a year. We also have trainings we can do online. They’re usually 2 hours also, depending on the subject. We can sign up and travel to different locations and take trainings.”

“There have to be rules and regulations. It’s that way with every job. I understand why we have rules and regulations,” said Schroeder.

And Hein and her staff are available to help every step of the way.

“The first thing we do is meet with you to give you information and make sure it is a good fit for you. We will go over it all. We help you get your home ready. There are trainings and classes to help you feel ready. We want you to succeed and feel prepared. This is why it is so important to be licensed so you feel safe and so the children are safe. We can’t help people or the kids if you aren’t licensed,” said Hein.

It is also costly for those who provide childcare and are not licensed. Not only can one be charged five to 50 dollars a day per child as far back as the county can prove they were being illegally watched, but you can be taken to court. It’s simply not worth it.

“The people that aren’t licensed and are doing daycare, that’s kinda sad. I mean if it’s a relative, that’s wonderful. But do they know CPR? Do they know First Aid? We have to have 16 hours of training a year. They don’t know these things. I’m not saying it’s not as safe as an atmosphere, but would they know what to do if a baby was choking?” asked Schroeder.

“Licensing is there for a reason, and that reason is for the safety of the children who are in childcare. If I’m serious about my job, then I will abide by the rules. If I’m committed to keeping the kids in my care safe, then I will do the trainings and adapt to the changes. So many things are happening these days that we hear in the news about a misfortune that’s happened with a child due to an accident at daycare. And a lot of the times, those things happen under unlicensed supervision. I’m not saying just because I have all the training, nothing will happen under my care. But if it does, I’m ready,” said Bettles. “I’m not happy at all when I hear about someone locally, or anywhere doing childcare unlicensed. I put a lot of my personal time and energy, and money into my work. But when it means someone’s safety, a child’s safety, then it’s not right. The state isn’t doing this just to make some money off people. They’re doing it to protect those young lives that are put in a licensed provider’s care. And parents may not even think of that perspective. I know childcare is very scarce especially in our town. But you need to ask yourself, is my child safe?

If you think you would like to open a licensed daycare in your home, please contact Erin Hein for more information.

You can just get some information without committing. She can be reached at 620-382-2550 during normal business hours.

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