FORT WORTH, Texas — Every day, Felicia Davis fulfills her life’s passion.
Davis, the owner of Ready Set Jump Early Childcare Learning Center in Fort Worth, has served children in Fort Worth for five years. She calls it her mission.
“We need childcare like we need air. We need quality child care,” Davis said.
But the child care industry is facing a national crisis due to low wages and staffing issues.
“Right now, a lot of programs have closed classrooms because they can’t hire the educators,” said Kara Waddell, the CEO of Child Care Associates, one of the largest child development programs in North Texas.
Like many early child care learning centers, Davis’ center stayed open throughout the pandemic, but the problems persist.
“A lot of centers have closed, so now we’re faced with a lot more kids,” Davis said. “We need staff. We’re losing teachers left and right.”
Now, help is on the way.
On Tuesday, the Tarrant County Commissioner’s court offered a lifeline.
County leaders approved a $45 million investment for child care and early learning. The federal funds come from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The county and Child Care Associates will work together to determine the community’s needs and distribute funds.
Of the $45 million, $2 million will go toward strengthening child care businesses and quality, $15 million will go toward stabilizing quality child care and increase whole child supports and $28 million will be used to expand infant-toddler access and infrastructure for highest need families.
“This is a critical investment, not just in our families, but in our early educators,” Waddell said. “Our community took public funds and really took an innovative solution, one that’s child-centered and family centered… and took a chance to expand our infant- toddler care access in the community, it’s the most expensive care… it’s more expensive than attending a public university in Texas.”
Davis, whose center received COVID relief funding, said the newly-approved funding is a critical step toward solving staffing challenges.
“I’m excited," Davis said. "Cause we can do so much for the staff. We’ll be able to give them pay raises so that they’ll stay at our center.”
Her hope is to continue serving the children in her community and watch them grow.
“These kids will become our leaders for tomorrow,” Davis said. They need to know that they’re loved.”