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Staffing shortage among child care providers affecting Des Moines metro families

Primrose School of Urbandale said its building is running at half-capacity because it can't find qualified staff.

URBANDALE, Iowa — Child care centers in the Des Moines area are struggling to find qualified workers to take care of kids.

One of those facilities is the Primrose School of Urbandale, which is running at half-capacity because they can't find the staff they need. 

"My concern is that I'm hiring for teachers for this new school, we're having a very difficult time recruiting people," said Anissa Deay, director of the school. "In order for our economy to kick back in, we need to make sure that we're offering high-quality programming and that means we need teachers in the building." 

Families searching for a registered child care provider have a resource to do so. That map can be seen below or at this link.

The map shows every registered child care provider in the state and which ones have availability. However, Deay said the map doesn't reflect the reality child care providers are experiencing. 

Availability problems existed before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state too. 

"Child care prior to the pandemic was losing the child care workforce at about 40% over a five-year span of time," said Jillian Herink with the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children. 

RELATED: Pandemic forces more women out of work than men

Herink also noted that Iowa faces some unique challenges compared to other states. She said the state has the highest percentage of working parents in the nation as well as historically low unemployment. 

This creates a perfect storm for parents searching for child care. 

It also means child care centers like Primrose are competing for a smaller pool of potential employees. Right now, it doesn't feel like a winning battle.

And amidst that competition, parents like Derek Morris have fewer options. Morris told Local 5 it took over a month for him and his wife to find a child care center that met their specific needs for their daughter, Lucy.

Herink said the solution is clear.

"We need Iowa to invest in Iowa's child care as a profession and as an infrastructure because it is. And help fund the professionalism and recognize it," she said. 

Iowa is already starting to tackle these challenges. Herink serves on the Governor's Child Care Task Force and said the organization has already sent recommendations to Gov. Kim Reynolds. 

Herink said she expects those recommendations to be released soon so lawmakers can start crafting a new policy.

WATCH | Here's how the state is working to improve child care access services in Iowa

RELATED: Here's how the state is working to improve child care access, services in Iowa

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