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Wisconsin struggles with child care worker shortage

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Low wages and a lack of benefits are making it difficult for child care centers in Wisconsin to attract and retain workers, particularly in rural areas, according to state child care experts.

Jodi Widuch is the executive director of The Parenting Place, a La Crosse-based agency that provides free services and referrals to child care providers and families. She told Wisconsin Public Radio that child care centers are competing for employees with school districts, which have better compensation packages.

“We need highly qualified folks to be caring for young children. They’re very vulnerable,” Widuch said. “What happens to them early in their years, both good and bad, stays with them for a lifetime.”

The economy, regulatory changes and shifts in family dynamics are contributing to the child care worker shortage, said Gina Paige, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, which licenses and regulates child care in the state.

The department is working to address the employment challenges, Paige said.

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