GREENFIELD — Kelley Basey remembers the countless phone calls she made, the hours spent visiting local child care centers — and the waiting lists. Always the waiting lists.
For a new mom trying to return to work, the hunt for child care options was aggravating; that was 17 years ago, and Basey has since opened a facility of her own in hopes of filling a void she said still exists for parents in Hancock County.
Hancock County doesn’t have enough child care options for the county’s youngest residents, recent data from the Indiana Youth Institute show.
There are 11.5 spots at licensed centers and homes for every 100 Hancock County children under age 5, the report states. Hancock fares worse than five of its six surrounding counties in terms of child care availability. Rush County has just 7.6 slots for every 100 young children.
Story continues below gallery
The institute doesn’t provide a recommendation for how many spots would meet the county’s needs, but local parents say a lack of licensed facilities — and their waiting lists — indicate an obvious shortage.
The county has only two licensed child care centers, Shining Stars and House of Kids Inc. II, also in Greenfield. There are 28 home-based child care facilities; together, the 30 facilities have capacity for about 600 children.
The county also has 10 child care ministries that offer space for an additional 600 children, but not all ministries are licensed. They are registered, however, and must meet basic child care standards as outlined by the Family and Social Services Administration.
Hancock County’s void places a heavy burden on moms and dads looking for a place to send their young kids while they work, local parents and child care providers said. And it leaves many of the county’s child care providers with long waiting lists.
And now, Basey is the one turning parents away. At Shining Stars on State Street in Greenfield, which she opened nine years ago, there’s always a waiting list, especially for babies and toddlers. The facility is licensed to care for 118 children aged 6 months to 12 years.
For parents looking for child care for their children who aren’t yet in school, space is limited, Basey said.
Her infant room, for example, has room for six babies at a time, and parents typically are on a waiting list for at least six months.
Shauna Kuhn of Greenfield has had her 1-year-old son Damon on Basey’s waiting list since December. Now, three months later, Basey said she hopes to enroll him in coming weeks.
In the meantime, Damon’s grandmother watches him on days both parents work.
It’s an arrangement that’s working right now, but Kuhn said she’d rather have her son attending child care, especially at a licensed facility with trained caregivers who can provide early childhood education.
Kuhn helped find child care for her 4-year-old nephew a few years ago. The family struggled then to find child care in Greenfield that met expectations, Kuhn said. There just weren’t many options.
“In the beginning, it was frustrating,” she said. “We looked at a few facilities but couldn’t find one with space that we liked.”
The problem becomes even more difficult for parents of multiple children.
Erin Barkley and her husband moved to Greenfield from Florida in October and immediately began searching for child care for their two children, Ruth, 4, and Jim, 2.
One center had space for Ruth to begin immediately, but no spots were available for Jim, who was 1 at the time. He was put on a waiting list, and Erin found an in-home day care facility for him to attend in the interim.
That means two days a week, Barkley is driving her children to two different child care facilities. They’re fewer than 2 miles away from one another, but it adds quite a bit of time to her morning and evening routines, she said.
“It’s inconvenient to go to both places for drop off and pick up,” she said. “Fortunately, Greenfield is small.”
Opening a child care facility is an extensive process, Basey noted, which could explain why so few care providers have taken the steps. Basey’s journey to opening her facility took about four years as she looked for a building approved for a child care center and then worked with state officials to become licensed.
Obtaining a license requires applicants to meet a variety of state standards. To start, they must attend training sessions, prove their facility meets zoning and building requirements and pass on-site inspections by several state departments.
Outside facilities are required to provide written plans for food service and details for a health program to handle children’s medical needs.
Basey said she wishes she could expand her facilities to provide for more families, but that just isn’t in the cards for now.
Still, she takes comfort in knowing she’s making the search for child care easier for the parents of the 118 children at her facility.
“I can work with these children and give parents what they need — a safe environment made for children.”
For every 100 children under 5, Hancock County has 11.5 licensed child care spots, meaning many parents are put on waiting lists when looking for daycare options. Comparatively, Hancock County fares worse than five of the six counties surrounding it in terms of child care availability. Here’s how counties compare:
Hancock: 11.5 spots
Henry: 12.3 spots
Hamilton: 28.7 spots
Shelby: 11.7 spots
Rush: 7.6 spots
Source: KidsCount Data Center