Challenges finding caregivers and educators for children

My job is to build humans,” John Searles, Midland County Educational Service Agency (MCESA) Superintendent, says when discussing early childhood education and childcare in our area. Building humans has become a much more difficult task because there is a shortage of caregivers and educators not only in Midland, but nationwide. The numbers of qualified and trained individuals to fill these positions has been on the decline for several years, only to plummet with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Searles acknowledges that this human services problem needed a community solution and with that came the formation of the Child Care Innovation Team.
“This team formed in the summer of 2022 to address our childcare crisis in Midland County and the surrounding area. The work of this team lead to smaller committees to work on grants to support this work. To date, those grants are an ARPA grant for Midland County, Apprenticeship Design Grant, Regional Planning Grant, and the Apprenticeship Implementation Grant.” says Kimberly Clark. She’s the MCESA Director of Early Childcare and Family Services. The first two grants have been awarded, giving the team the resources to start implementing programs to recruit new talent.
Currently, the shortage is causing waiting lists of up to two and a half years for infants and preschool aged children at daycares and facilities that offer preschool for three and four year old children across the state. Last month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer addressed this issue in her State of the State Address.

The proposed plan works in conjunction with the already established Great Start Readiness Program and states that all 110,000 of the state's 4-year-olds can attend a preschool program. The plan would save families on average about $10,000 in childcare costs, according to a press release from Whitmer’s office. “Ideally, each child would attend preschool for two years before kindergarten, but one year is much better than none at all,” Clark comments. One year of high-quality preschool increases the likelihood that children are literate, graduate from high school and move on to college or a post-secondary training program. Early childhood education steers the course of an individual’s life from a very young age.
The procured resources by the Child Care Innovation Team will provide educational and promotional materials to draw new providers and educators, starting at the high school level. “There is this misconception that there is no room for advancement in a career in early childhood education,” Searles says. “People looking at this career path need to understand that they are not babysitters, and they may not end up in a classroom. There are several positions within our region available for people interested in investing in our little ones,” Clark adds.

MCESA is currently recruiting high school students for an apprenticeship program that will feed into a pipeline of new teachers and caregivers. This will give students the opportunity to earn their Child Development Associate credential and enable them to start working in the field right out of high school. It also sets them up to go on to higher education if they choose to do so. Depending on the student’s end goal, there are several programs from the associate to master’s degree level offered at colleges and universities in our area. Clark is hoping that by educating parents and school counselors of the vast opportunities that await high school and college aged students that Midland and beyond will be able to obtain “home grown,” high quality candidates to fill open positions.
While parents are waiting for openings for their young children, MCESA Longview offers a Lending Library. The Lending Library is a free service offered through the Great Start to Quality Central Resource Center at Longview. It contains over 90 experience bins (learning totes) for all age groups, a wall of story stretchers (books with activities), early childhood resources and more. All of these items can be checked out for two weeks at a time for free by parents, providers, teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, anyone who wants some fun learning activities to use with children.

The Child Care Innovation Team will continue to work together to find funding for training and resources as MCESA’s Career and Technical Education trains area high schoolers to fill in some of the current gaps. Referencing Whitmer’s January press release, Michigan's budget surplus is projected to reach $9.2 billion by next fall, with $4.1 billion in the school aid fund. This fund will aid the community’s efforts. In additon to the ESA, the team is made up of representatives from several community organizations including the Midland Area Community Foundation, United Way of Midland County, Midland Business Alliance,  MyMichigan Health, MIHIA, Great Start Collaborative, Corteva, Greater Midland, Meridian Public Schools, Kinder Kare, Region Preschool Partnership, and  MiWorks. 

Midland County ESA in collaboration with many early childhood partners offers an array of services for families of young children at Longview Early Childhood Center.  The Longview Early Childhood Center houses multiple agencies and programs to help serve the families of Midland County. The following list reflects the numerous programs and partnering agencies working together, under one roof, to serve thousands of Midland children and families.


· Central Resource Center
· Early On
· Great Start Collaborative and Parent Coalition

· Longview Early Childhood Center
· Great Start to Quality
  Central Resource Center & Lending Library
· Imagination Library

· Greater Midland Early Care & Education
· Midland Community Center Childcare
· Mid Michigan CommunityAction Agency-WIC & Early Head Start
· Regional Preschool Partnership-Great Start Readiness Program

· NEMCSA Head Start
· MCESA Early Childhood Special Education Classrooms & Inclusion
· MCESA Early Intervention Services
  West Midland Family Center

Reporting on the challenges of child care and preschool education is made possible with funding from the Midland County Educational Service Agency.

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Read more articles by Carly Lillard.

Carly Lillard moved to the Great Lakes Bay Region in 2007 from Traverse City. Since that time, she’s graduated from Northwood University and held positions at Dow, Northwood University, Midland Area Community Foundation, Shelterhouse and Youth For Understanding. Currently, Carly is working as the Director of Philanthropy and Strategic Relationships at Holy Cross Services while completing her Master’s Degree from Michigan State University in Strategic Communication. When she’s not writing, you will find her spending time with her husband, Jesse, and two children, Maycie and Elias. Carly can be reached at