More than two dozen experts, parents and lawmakers gathered in West Des Moines on Friday to discuss issues surrounding childcare in the state.
Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne organized the discussion, held at Gravitate Coworking, which covered topics such as the state’s shortage of childcare workers, provider pay and child nutrition.
"We’ve got a lot of things that we really need to look at," Axne said, "making sure that they’re in safe settings, ensuring that it’s cost effective for families, but that also that our providers are paid well.
Axne says making childcare available and affordable is vital to help families -- especially women -- economically.
"We either have childcare deserts or we make it too expensive. Women in that case, mostly women, say 'I can’t go into the job market,' and then when they need an opportunity in life, they haven’t built up a career," she said.
Democratic state Sen. Claire Celsi said she ran a childcare service out of her home when her children were young because it made sense economically for her family.
Celsi said she's concerned about the number of unregistered homecare providers in the state.
“I saw a lot of unregistered providers that did not have any business having a childcare business, and obviously they were doing it so they could pay their own bills, but it was frightening," Celsi said.
Under current state law, child homecare providers with fewer than six children are not required to be registered.
Celsi said this could be throwing off numbers and means these providers don't qualify for government assistance, like child nutrition support.
"I also think by having a registry, we would have a better count of how many child care slots we actually have. I think the best guesstimate we have is probably off by thousands," Celsi said.