LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The pandemic has caused a significant disruption to child care for many families, forcing some parents, often women, to leave the workforce.
According to research by Indeed.com, employment among mothers of children 13 or younger is still down four percent from pre-pandemic levels, compared to one percent of fathers.
For many mothers, the money they would earn at a job would be canceled out by the cost of child care.
That’s the case for one mom from Leavenworth.
Hanna Tramel is currently staying home with her one-year-old daughter Millie, not because she wants to be a stay-at-home mom, but because she can’t find a job that makes enough to pay for child care.
“When I’m paying $250 a week for day care? It’s not really worth it, by any means,” Tramel said.
Tramel’s boyfriend and Millie’s dad works a seasonal job in construction, meaning it’s even more difficult to make ends meet during the off-season.
So Tramel came up with a solution to bring in more income for her family: she posted on a local babysitting group, offering to watch other children in her home.
Another mom with two kids contacted her. She started watching the little boy and girl at her home around 20 hours per week.
“It wasn’t a ton of money, but it was our grocery money, which helps,” Tramel said.
But then, the state came knocking on her door.
“They said that they caught wind that I was watching kids in my house, and I’m not licensed,” she said.
Tramel thought she was exempt from getting a child care license because she was only watching the kids for 20 hours per week. But in Kansas, the state counts hours per child, meaning her 20 hours with two kids actually counted as 40 hours.
When Tramel looked into getting a license, she ran into another obstacle: she knew some of the cracks in the concrete around her home wouldn’t pass code, and she couldn’t afford to repave them.
Now, Tramel is back in the same situation she was in before.
“I actually don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know, I have no idea,” she said.
If Tramel had lived in Missouri, she would have been within the regulations for unlicensed child care. The only rule in Missouri is no more than four unrelated children in the home. There is no hour restriction.
In Kansas, no license is required if the child care provider is looking after the kids in the kids’ home. However, if the provider is looking after the kids in the provider’s home, no more than 20 hours per week are allowed.