MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee’s ongoing childcare crisis is costing working Shelby County parents their jobs due to a lack of affordable childcare options.
According to TQEE’s research, Shelby County parents facing child care problems lose an estimated $270.4 million in earnings each year. For many Memphis families, childcare is a necessity.
“I cannot tell you how important it is,” says Jakeva Torrance, working mother of six children. “Because childcare first of all, is imperative to us being able to do what we need to do for our family.”
Torrance says both she and her husband work full-time for the Shelby County Government.
With her husband in grad school, Erica Lewis says she needs somewhere for her two children to go so she can pay the bills.
“Finding somewhere that was safe and affordable for my children to go, I was able to find basically my dream job of helping people ,” said Lewis.
But for many other families in Shelby County, childcare is a luxury they can’t afford.
“A lot of mothers who can't find the balance between their income and paying for childcare,” said Lewis, who says she works with plenty of low-income families as a case counselor at Memphis’s Hospitality Hub. “A lot of moms sometimes have to rely on themselves, so being a stay at home mom isn't an option for a lot of people.”
Per TQEE, 55 percent of Shelby County working parents with children under the age of 6 reported having problems with employment due to lack of access to childcare. Of those, 34 percent say they were either fired or had to quit.
“Childcare is so expensive, that you go to work for a paycheck that will go solely to someone watching your child,” Lewis said.
Dr. Kendra Jones, owner of FingerTips Enrichment Center, says she doesn’t want parents to face that at her daycare.
“When we started, it was so very important to me that we could serve whoever needed the service,” she said. “So I made it a point to get signed up to where we do receive or we accept the Tennessee (Education Savings Account) voucher.”
But every business comes with costs. In order to make sure she continues to offer high-quality care, Dr. Jones receives aid from Next Memphis, which provides childcare centers with extra resources.
“To help them save time, to help them save money, to help them make more money,” said Alicia Norman, director of Next Memphis. “We actually provide about five to six part time employees that they won't have (to pay the) cost for to help enhance their quality of care for children.”
The organization currently works with 36 child centers.
“We use creative curriculum which was provided by Next Memphis,” Dr. Jones said. “So that kind of help offset the cost of having to invest.”
But with over 500 centers across Shelby Count, they are working hard to reach more and the families who need them.
“(Next Memphis is) making sure that we keep the cost to where it is affordable for the families,” Dr. Jones said.