The Covid-19 pandemic created cascading effects across every industry that continue to reverberate two years after it began. Even as many businesses return employees to the office, many other sectors face severe staffing shortages alongside the loss of long-time staff to retirement or career changes. For nearly two million working mothers across the United States, the return to work never arrived after Covid furloughs and layoffs — and an ongoing crisis in childcare availability has been at the center of that problem.
According to information provided by the US Department of Labor, the childcare sector currently faces a deficit of more than 126,000 workers compared to pre-pandemic employment levels. Yet, although there is a massive demand for employment in this area — and a clear need from the parents who use those businesses — hiring remains slow.
Persistently low wages for childcare workers and the comparatively higher wages available in other industries have caused many to leave the sector altogether despite a passion for the work. With rising consumer goods costs and a challenging housing market, applicants that might have considered childcare professions instead opt for other career positions that offer a more comfortable standard of living.
With the requirements imposed by many states on licensing and employee background checks for these organizations, the pool of available applicants has undergone a significant contraction. When a childcare provider does find an individual suitable for employment, many are likely to face additional delays that can further complicate plans for increasing staffing.
A new federal law that came into force in September 2021 requires daycare centers and related businesses to conduct an FBI fingerprint background check for child care employees they plan to hire. These checks must occur in addition to other screening measures, such as checking state-based criminal history registries through services such as backgroundchecks.com. Providers must also scan state-based sex offender and child abuse registries to form a complete picture of an individual's background.
While this vital procedure works to keep employers informed and children safe, checks run by the FBI can be slow compared to instant online products that don't require a fingerprint. However, fingerprint checks are an important element of verifying record matches and consulting federal criminal records. Due to the high volume of requests made from around the country and the task's inherent complexity, completion times for FBI fingerprint checks can range up to a month following submission.
With such long wait times, delays leave daycares in limbo. While some federal legislation under consideration in Congress would aim to close the employment gap in childcare while making it more affordable, the situation is complex and without an easy fix. As parents continue to look for options, the need to choose safe and compliant facilities must remain front and center — meaning childcare organizations may need to continue expanding efforts to recruit qualified individuals however possible.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at EY-VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.