Daycare Waiting Lists Hurt Local Permian Communities

Daycare Waiting Lists Hurt Local Permian Communities
More than 1,400 children were on daycare waiting lists in Midland and the surrounding area earlier this year, according to the latest available data.

(Bloomberg) -- The West Texas sun is still hours away from rising, but the line at the First Presbyterian Church in Midland is already forming.

These aren’t teens waiting for concert tickets. They’re tired moms and dads hoping to get a spot at the church’s “Mother’s Day Out” program for their children, the babies of the boom.

“It’s like you’re scalping for tickets to a Rolling Stones concert,” said Jessica McCoy, a soon-to-be mother who sells oilfield services equipment for United Safety Ltd. in Midland. McCoy’s solution: her mother has moved to Midland from Austin allowing McCoy to keep her job when her son is born this fall.

Others aren’t as lucky. More than 1,400 children were on daycare waiting lists in Midland and the surrounding area earlier this year, according to the latest available data. It’s a statistic that’s keeping both families and communities from taking full financial advantage of the Permian Basin’s rise to energy dominance.

Affected the most: Moms. With women still making less than men generally, they’re more likely to quit work to provide care for their children, said Michelle McCready, chief of policy at Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit that promotes affordable childcare.

Heidi Winkler, married to a petroleum geologist, knows the feeling well.

Winkler’s 20-month-old son will attend extended childcare at First Presbyterian’s childcare center for the first time starting next month. That’s allowing her to finally achieve a long-sought goal: Starting her own graphic design business.

“It was a huge relief to be able to get into childcare,” she said. ‘‘I know so many other moms who are on the wait list, and they may not make the cut for childcare this fall.”

In Texas, a family of four that make less than about $48,000 a year is eligible for government funding for childcare, according to Shay Everitt, director for early childhood education initiatives for the non-profit group Children at Risk. But only about 17 percent of the facilities that serve those children are considered “quality” providers, meaning they’re certified by the state’s rating system.

At a Bright Horizons’ childcare center in Midland, monthly rates are subsidized by Concho Resources Inc., a Permian shale driller. That means parents pay between $600 and $700 a month per child, compared with more than $1,000 a month many are forced to shell out without employer help.

‘Kinder Preppers’

Even with a facility specifically reserved for one company, though, most age groups still have a “pretty good-sized wait list,” said Jessi Silva, the center’s director.

“Right now, if your infant is already born and you want to get your child in, it’ll probably be next summer before you can get them in,” she said. There were 18 infants, five toddlers, seven preschoolers and five to six “Kinder-preppers” on the waiting list as of early August, according to Silva.

At the same time, the lack of childcare is hurting local communities like Midland and nearby Odessa, where local officials are working hard to increase the number of families that move to the shale patch for good.

Cities Aspire

While many rig operators and truck drivers leave families back home while they pull two- to three-week shifts, the cities aspire for oilfield workers and white-collar employees alike to come with their spouses and kids. That means more money for area restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores and shopping malls, according to Jerry Morales, the mayor of Midland and a local restaurateur.


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