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More than 25-percent of child care providers in the state expected to shut down permanently

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- With tighter regulations, rising expenses and low enrollment numbers during the pandemic, some child care facilities will have to shut their doors permanently.

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families says even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the state was already in the midst of a child care crisis with how many centers were available, and now they say more than a quarter of them will end up closing.

For Davette Kendle, her Milwaukee in-home child care business is her livelihood.

“I did have to think about the safety of my own children, as well as myself and others during the pandemic,” said Davette Kendle, owner of Audrey’s Angels Child Care in Milwaukee.

She went from having just under a dozen kids to now three.

“I’m down to maybe three a day, sometimes one,” said Kendle. “So it definitely took a toll on me financially.”

Kendle is not the only one. Others say they’ve lost kids because parents are wary of leaving their kids in child care.

“I’ve taken on some essential kids, but I am still missing four of my kids that would normally be here, and that is out of fear,” said Leah Zastoupil, owner of Zasty’s Family Child Care.

Leah Zastoupil also serves as the president of the Wisconsin Family Child Care Association. She says child care providers in the state are struggling to keep up.

“Just day-to-day expenses have gone up, our numbers are going down, the constant changing of rules and regulations that we’re supposed to be aware of and know is stressful,” added Zastoupil.

“We’re constantly cleaning, constantly washing hands, I do not allow children to come with any cold-like symptoms, and I do take temperatures at the door,” said Kendle.

The Wisconsin DCF says COVID-19 has taken the child care industry into uncharted territory, with local guidelines varying for each provider type.

“From one county to the next, and sometimes one city to the next, there are different rules and regulations that can be interpreted differently or confused,” said Emilie Amundson, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

They say 25-percent of child care programs will close, and that’s actually a modest number.

“In terms of the number of centers we have in Wisconsin and available high-quality spots available, we can’t afford to lose 25% of our child care,” added Amundson.

Amundson says child care is essential as parents head back to work.

“We know that folks can’t get back to work if there aren’t adequate child care options for families,” said Amundson.

Yeah, it’s hard, I do still have essential working parents and they need me, so I had to put those parents first,” said Kendle.

The Wisconsin DCF says there’s a pot of $51 million from the federal CARES Act to help child care providers recover from the crisis, with three payment programs available, but even so, relief could take time.

“When these programs have been shut down since March and we’re waiting until June 8 to even know when that is gonna happen, it’s a long time to be floating,” said Zastoupil.

The Wisconsin DCF has launched guidance for parents as to how to know when it’s safe to send their kids back in to child care. For more information, click here.

For DCF guidelines for child care providers, click here.

For guidelines for the City of Milwaukee, click here.

For COVID-19 funding resources for providers, click here.

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