Daycare costs, waitlists send families looking for alternative options

Most daycares in Nashville have waitlists more than a year long.
Brendan Tierney reports how daycares are struggling to meet demand and what other options are available for parents.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 7:05 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - The Tennessee General Assembly is trying to create a daycare scholarship program to solve what lawmakers are calling a childcare crisis.

Many daycares in Nashville tell WSMV4 they have waitlists with more than 500 families on them while others said they are currently filling spots for their class of 2029.

That high demand and not enough staff has drastically increased the price of childcare in Tennessee. The latest data from Child Care Aware of America shows it costs nearly $11,000 per year to put an infant in center-based daycare. That’s nearly as much as a year of tuition of University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Blessed Babies Learning Academy in North Nashville moved to a larger facility on Whites Creek Pike after outgrowing their last building due to the demand. Owner and director Diesheka Bowers said they filled up all their additional spots within a couple of days and even built more classrooms to help as many families as possible.

“We have parents who call us on the phone every day and they’re basically begging us,” Bowers said. “They’re saying, ‘Can you please tell me how long I am going to be on this waiting list? Is there any chance I can get in?’ We have mothers who are on maternity leave and they’re like, ‘I have to go back to work.’ They can’t go to work.”

Bowers said they have more than 60 families on a waitlist right now and that number grows every day. BBLA is allowed to have up to 154 children at a time, but they currently have a cap of 125 because they cannot find enough teachers to staff every room under DHS ratio limits.

“It hurts me to tell them no or I hate to say that I don’t think your child is going to get in in six months,” Bowers said. “That is frustrating because we hear parents and know that they have to go to work, they have to make a living.”

One parent to get a coveted spot is Gia Barden. She was on the waitlist at six daycares before her son was born and has started warning her friends to get on a waitlist as soon as they begin trying to get pregnant.

“It was very stressful, but now that we are in, the stress is a lot less because I don’t have to worry about that,” Barden said. “I can just bring him every day and drop him off.”

Other families that were not as lucky to get a spot are trying to find alternative options. Nashville Nanny Agency owner Rachel Adkins said they’ve seen a major influx of parents coming to them looking for caregivers.

“They’re looking for dependable and reliable childcare, and typically our turnaround is between four to six weeks,” Adkins said. “Good help is hard to find right now for a lot of people in every industry. We are seeing that as well.”

She said that added demand has led to a much tighter nanny market than before the pandemic. That’s made them eliminate their part-time nanny search service, and nannies are charging significantly higher rates for full-time work.

“Most of our families are pregnant and they are expecting at a certain time or day. But about half of our families that contact us, they are looking for someone yesterday,” Adkins said. “They’re scrambling and they’re in a really tough spot.”

“What used to get you a great nanny at $15 to $20 per hour is now more like $25 to $35 per hour,” Adkins said. “A lot of our nannies are making $75,000 per year. It’s just the lack of childcare in the area. It’s put parents in a really tough place.”