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For child care, long waiting lists getting longer

September 7, 2016
Yadira Lopez
Herald Tribune

Four-year-old Nadia already had child care lined up when she was 6 months… in the womb. To get a spot, said her mother Amanda Bailey, you have to start as early as possible.

Local providers say that waiting lists have always been the norm, but in recent months, many have reported a sharp increase in demand. Officials struggle to pinpoint a particular reason, but years of stagnant funding, a decline in the number of providers and the surge in heroin use that has led to court-mandated referrals for child care have all strained the system.

The waiting list at federally funded Children First centers in Sarasota has ballooned to over 400 this year. It typically hovers around 250-300. By midsummer, it was at 428.

Children First has 13 locations in Sarasota. It’s the only organization in the county that receives Head Start and Early Head Start federal grants to provide free or subsidized care for low-income families. Officials from the National Head Start Association said they don’t keep track of waiting list trends nationwide, and they’re not sure why the list had jumped.