The childcare desert in rural areas and the affect it has on families

Updated: Jun. 9, 2023 at 9:00 AM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - With school out of session, many families are left wondering if they will be able to find daycare.

According to American Progress, nearly two-thirds of rural families live in a childcare desert. Low-income families living in rural areas will end up spending 12.2% of their income on childcare a year.

“Families are needing to work, things are expensive, and most families are needing to have two parents working in the home so having the opportunity to have a place that’s safe and well-balanced for your kiddo to go is really important,” says Janelle Rauterkus, the owner of Kid Konnections Preschool.

Despite the desperate need, there is not enough funding or resources to pay staff, especially in rural areas, even though the cost of childcare is skyrocketing. Many families will have to choose between affording daycare rather than other necessities.

“As youth care professionals, we show up to work so everyone else can work and I think that’s the way to put it. Without having adequate youth care facilities or childcare facilities, you’re going to continue to see the workforce struggle,” states Billy Mawhiney, from the South Dakota Afterschool Network.

According to the South Dakota Afterschool Network, 76% of kids need care because their parents have to work.

“Parents have to make a tough choice if they’re going to be able to stay home with their kid if they can’t find childcare, some parents don’t have a choice and so they end up choosing maybe a less than ideal situation.”

Closing the gap between available and needed childcare is vital to the safety of children and would create less economic stress on the parents. So much so that businesses are beginning to keep in mind the lack of childcare across the country.

“A lot of times families either, they either, choose to stay home or they choose maybe one of the parents to work part-time, so that way after school they can have that flexibility. But we’re also seeing more remote work and more flexible work and so we’re seeing a lot of that because I think all the business industry is really realizing that they have to be flexible in order to have workers,” Mawhiney concludes.

“Parents have to make a tough choice if they’re going to be able to stay home with their kid if they can’t find childcare, some parents don’t have a choice and so they end up choosing maybe a less than ideal situation,” Rauterkus finishes.

Childcare remains one of the most underfunded programs in the country.