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There's a child care crisis in America. Leaders in Tarrant County have launched an effort to help

Tarrant County leaders will distribute $2 million in federal funding to raise wages for child care educators in the county.

FORT WORTH, Texas — For more than 30 years, caring for children has been Lisa McDaniel’s life purpose.

McDaniel is the owner of Lisa’s Little Angels Learning Center in the Stop Six neighborhood of Fort Worth. She’s giving back to pre-kindergarten children in the same community she grew up in.

“It entails a lot,” McDaniel said. “You become a mentor, a mother, an advocate, you become a lot… everything a parent needs.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, she and her staff had no choice but to keep showing up. When children got sent home from schools, her daycare center took on even more kids during a time when COVID was a high risk.

“It was tough,” said McDaniel.

The pandemic has brought the issue of low wages among child care educators to the forefront. In most cases, they work at a low cost.

According to employment website Indeed, on average, early child care educators in Texas earn $10.74 an hour, lower than the national average of $12.88. In comparison, a Costco employee’s starting salary is $17 an hour.

If a child care educator in Texas works 40 hours per week, they would earn around $22,300 in a year.

“I give every provider that’s still out here a thumbs up, cause we did it… and we’re still fighting the battle,” McDaniel said.

It’s a battle many have quit.

In Aug. 2021, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported 126,700 early child care workers have left the industry since the start of the pandemic.

Kara Waddell, president and CEO of Child Care Associates in Fort Worth, said it’s a child care crisis.

“Child care has been a low wage profession. With that, there’s been a lot of turnover well before COVID,” said Waddell. “COVID has just accelerated the exit from the profession at a time where we need childcare more than ever.”

Help is on the way in Tarrant County.

This week, Tarrant County leaders announced $2 million in federal dollars will be distributed amongst an estimated 1,500 child care educators in Tarrant County.

The money will come from the American Recovery Plan. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker and Arlington Mayor Jim Ross have collaborated with Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County and Child Care Associates to launch the effort.

The federal funds will raise a child care worker’s pay by about $250 a month for at least six months.

Carolyn Campbell, the director of Lisa’s Little Angels Learning Center, said the funding will be a tremendous help.

“I really want to thank them for actually looking beyond what was written and seeing what was needed,” said Campbell. “The need was to help those that was helping others.”

Waddell said the goal of the effort is to prevent even more vacancies, and a long-term solution is in the works.

Through it all, McDaniel said she’s here to stay. In the future, she plans to expand her small daycare center into a larger building to accommodate more children.

“It does get shaky, it does get where you wanna quit, but you can’t. Why? As soon as you turn around and look at that child, that is the reason why you’re here. I’m not here for Lisa. I’m here for the community,” said McDaniel.

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