Local Group Says Coast In A Child Care Crisis

"Now Hiring" signs are everywhere and many coast business are having trouble finding employees. A local non-profit group believes the problem is that many people can't find anyone to take care of their children while they work.

The director of the Mississippi Wellness Foundation says Katrina destroyed or severely damaged 90 percent of the daycare centers in Harrison County.

Lately Steven Herbert has had a lot of "Take Your Daughter To Work" days. Since Katrina, the construction worker often has to do his job while keeping an eye on four-year-old Carly.

"Right now I'm sure a lot of kids are going to work with their parents. The ones that can," Herbert said.

Instead of children, the rooms at Tracy Corrick's daycare center are full of building materials. She's not sure when she'll be ready to welcome back the 100 children that were coming to Gulfport Academy Preschool and Childcare.

"We have insurance but probably like everyone else we haven't heard from them," said Corrick. "We are on limited resources and when that runs out we're not sure what we're going to do. We're going to have to stop until the insurance money comes in, so that's scary."

The Mississippi Wellness Foundation believes there is a direct link between the lack of open day care centers and the shortage of workers.

"If you look where we are today in this child care center. It is completely gutted. This is just one of hundreds and the money is not coming in to help these day cares get up and running. They need immediate funds and that's what we're trying to do," foundation director Karen Waugh said.

To get daycare centers open sooner, the Wellness Foundation has launched a fundraiser. Although some of Tracy Corrick's teachers are using their homes to watch children, the need for child care is still overwhelming.

"I'm getting 4 or 5 calls a day from new parents needing childcare and I don't have any place to send them at this point," she said. "Everybody that I know is full, and of course our teachers are full, so I don't know what they're doing."

The fear is that without a solution soon, parents who can't find quality childcare will move away.

The Mississippi Wellness Foundation is asking for donations to help speed up the reopening of daycare centers. If you would like to help call (228) 436-9007.

One Jackson County business is helping with the daycare crisis there. Chevron Refinery donated money and time to help rebuild the daycare center at Pascagoula's Calvary Baptist Church after storm waters flooded the building.

Pastor Johnny Beaver said without Chevron, the daycare would not have opened as soon.

"They replaced the tile, they replaced sheet rock, painted the whole building. But probably the funnest day we had was when the furniture arrived. We were able to pull out the chairs, cribs, the changing tables and all that good stuff," Beaver said.

The church held a celebration Tuesday thanking the company for their huge monetary donation and all their hard work.