Chambers County parents grapple with limited childcare availability
Published 8:30 am Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Consistent and quality childcare can be hard to find no matter where you live. Many parents have to get on waitlists months, if not years, in advance.
“We toured a few places and realized pretty quickly that there weren’t very many places that would have spots available when I needed it, and so I knew I needed to get on the waitlist very quickly,” said Chambers County Extension Office Coordinator Rachel Snoddy.
Snoddy has seen the importance of childcare as a mother of two as well as in her role within the community.
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Snoddy began researching childcare options early in her first pregnancy. She soon realized that she would need to get on a waitlist if she wanted to have a space for her child when it was time to go back to work.
“We have a lot of young families in Chambers County, and I’m sure they’re having the same struggles of trying to find care if they don’t have family nearby that can take care of their child in the meantime,” Snoddy said.
Point University Basketball Coach Jake Deer was able to find a quality care and education experience for his daughter at the Chattahoochee Early Learning Academy. He met with Point Early Childhood Education and CELA Director Dr. Lacey Southerland to tour the facility.
“We were really excited about the teacher-to-student ratio, the small class sizes, the hands-on, play-based curriculum, and all those things,” Deer said. “I know it can be a nightmare for some, but it was a fairly easy process for us.”
The Chattahoochee Early Learning Academy is a nonprofit childcare and school for children ages 3-4. The program has one teacher; however, education students from Point University also work as classroom assistants.
The class generally has a one-to-three ratio of adults to students.
This year, CELA’s class has 12 students. According to current CELA Director Anne O’Brien, the school tries to accept as many students who need childcare as possible. As of May, the classroom has about five to seven seats open for next year.
Snoddy said she believes more childcare options would be beneficial to the community for childcare.
“Not only to be able to have room for your child but also, just to make sure you find the right fit for your family because not every childcare center is the same and not all staff are the same,” she said. “So you want to make sure you’re comfortable with who you’re leaving your child with.”
Other childcare options include the Learning and Growing Childcare Center in Lanett, The Fig Tree Childcare in Valley and the Treasure Learning Preschool in Lanett.
The Learning and Growing Childcare Center has some opening for the 3 and a half year old group in August. The rest of the ages have a waiting list. The Fig Tree Childcare and Treasure Learning Preschool both have waiting lists at least until August.
However, childcare expenses can be another hindrance for families. Snoddy said that paying for childcare can feel exorbitant.
“Childcare, especially when you have more than one child, it ends up being like a mortgage payment,” Snoddy said. “It’s very expensive.”
With CELA, Deer said the pricing was well worth the positive experience his daughter gained. Tuition for the program is $200 a month. However, the rates are based on a sliding scale of parents’ income.
Students from the West Point Housing Authority also receive a full scholarship. The class is from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., which includes breakfast and a snack.
Now that school is out for the summer, parents with older children will look for activities they can place their kids in while working. At the Chambers County Extension Office, there are several summer activities for children.
Snoddy said many kids use the 4-H and Extension office summer programs as a safe and educational place to spend the day while their parents work.
“We get that sometimes they’re only there because they need something to do, and they need somewhere to put their kid for the day so that they can go to work or get other things done. We get that, and that’s fine,” Snoddy said. “But it just does show you that, yes, there are still needs in our area for not only the small children for year-round care but also in the summer for having a safe, educational, entertaining thing for your child to do during the summer when they’re not in school.”