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Iowa day care provider describes 'heartache' of trying to find open spot for a child

As more people go back into the office, day care openings are even harder to come by in Iowa.

BOONE, Iowa — Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least three day care centers in Boone have closed.

For the city of about 10,000, the closures are a significant impact on families who already don't have a lot of options as to where to send their children.

Rojane Francis has been providing at-home day care for families in the area for 34 years. She said her phone has been ringing off the hook the past several months.

"The biggest heartache, I think of the pandemic, is knowing that there are parents out there that needed day care, but there weren't places able to take the kids," Francis said. "There was a high demand for day care, there just wasn't anybody doing the daycare."

She's had more than 30 families reach out to her since January looking for a spot. Some families are using grandparents as child care as a last resort.

"It's sad," Francis said. "I feel honored because I have so many people that have called wanting to get into day care. But like I said, that double-edged sword ... you feel awful when you have to turn them away because they need day care in order to work."

In May, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced federal unemployment benefits would no longer be given to Iowans starting June 13.

RELATED: What you should know about Iowa's federal unemployment benefits ending this week

Mollie Carstens of West Des Moines is one of those parents relying on federal unemployment benefits to make ends meet because she can't find adequate child care for her daughter with special needs.

"I've called over 50 centers, no one will take Vera," Carstens said. "So I'm stuck at home with her. I would love to get out and work but until I have adequate daycare for Vera, I can't."

Francis said she has a wait list for parents like Carstens who need daycare but can't find any spots open. She recommended families get on as many lists as they can right now.

"Just keep calling, keep calling," Francis said. "Because hopefully, you know, at some point in time, somebody will have an opening, you know, that they'll be able to get their child into."

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