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Oklahoma parents struggle to find summer childcare

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 07:46:35-04

TULSA, Okla. — Summer break is here and parents are still looking for childcare.

The problem 2 News is hearing about has to do with facilities being filled to capacity. Parents are stuck signing up for waiting lists.

Amplifying the pressure of finding childcare is the upcoming expiration of federal unemployment benefits. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt recently announced he’s cutting those at the end of this month.

“The federal government has started creating an incentive to stay at home instead of getting back into the workforce,” Stitt said.

Many of those reliant on the federal help scramble to find work and childcare.

“The last thing we needed was for them to cut off this funding whenever we had a chance to use it to get over the summer and to figure out what needed to be done,” said Randi McKinney, an unemployed Oklahoman.

McKinney hoped to spend the summer figuring out how to restart a small business destroyed by the pandemic.

“I understand needing to get back into the workforce,” she said. “I do, but they are expecting everybody to try to do this when not all daycares are open. What daycares are open, there’s a waitlist.”

Many daycares are at capacity, including Doris Brown's.

“For the last two weeks, I've been getting 20-30 phone calls of people looking for daycare. They ask me when I’m going to have openings and I’m like, ‘It’s going to be a ways down the road,’” she said.

Brown does not expect to have an open spot until August.

“Waiting lists for daycares have been around for a long time,” said Keili McEwen, chief of strategic engagement for Oklahoma Human Services.

Daycare deserts have stuck around too.

READ MORE: Tulsa County lawmaker looks to address "daycare desert" and childcare shortage

“We know that there are some parts of the state where you have to drive many miles to a childcare center,” McEwen said.

She also said DHS is working on initiatives to address the issues, but those efforts cannot be announced yet.

“Childcare deserts are an issue that we are aware of and feel passionately about finding ways to solve for access,” she said.

Childcare cost also contributes to the difficulties. To aid parents, DHS is offering 60 days of free childcare for Oklahomans who are unemployed because of the pandemic. The department also has an online childcare locator.


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