KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Frustrated parents in need of child care in Knox County are facing months-long waitlists and rising costs.
One Knoxville mom said she began searching for a daycare center before her 8-month-old baby was born.
"One of them checked in and I'm still on the waitlist, so that's been over 8 months. And the other one I haven't heard from still," Cassie Browne said.
Waitlists at several Knoxville daycare centers range from weeks to months. Some are not accepting applications until 2023. Some daycare centers said staffing shortages are to blame.
"I think we could take 15 more kids right now if we had more staff," said Natalie Lethgo, the assistant director at Beaver Dam Child Care Center. "From January until the first week in April, we were only open Monday through Thursday because we were so short-staffed. We just got back to normal."
Finding qualified applicants has been a big challenge, she said.
"We want people that we can know and trust, and then have the education and understanding needed for the kids," said Owen Shelnutt, the co-director at the Davis Center for Child Development.
Roughly 30 families are currently on the waitlist at the Davis Center. However, some childcare professionals said they are making progress.
"We've been able to hire some more staff recently, and I hope that continues," said Jessica Simpson, the co-director at the Davis Center for Child Development.
Daycare costs are also on the rise. Prices in Knoxville range from $120 to $350 per week, with infants being the most expensive to enroll.
"We took all the right steps, we have a degree, and now it's like, a second mortgage to pay for daycare," Browne added.
Browne said she is thankful she and baby Bella have family around to help them through challenging times. The Tennessee Department of Human Services has an online directory of all child care agencies throughout the state to help families find centers for their children.