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Proposed zoning changes aim to ease Wichita child care shortages

Stephan Bisaha
Kansas News Service
Wichita is experiencing a shortage of child care providers, like the Child Development Center on McConnell Air Force Base that's pictured above.

Home day care providers would be allowed to enroll more children in their programs, if the changes went through.

Home day care facilities could enroll more children under proposed changes to the Wichita-Sedgwick County zoning code.

This could mitigate child care shortages that some say are reaching crisis levels.

“We’re only meeting 38% of the demand [for child care] in Sedgwick County,” said Tanya Bullock, program director at local nonprofit Child Start. “That means about 17,600 children under the age of five are potentially needing child care.”

Currently, day care facilities that operate out of residential homes can enroll up to 10 children. If the zoning code was amended, the facilities could take up to 12 and hire one more staff member.

Officials with the city-county planning department brought the proposal forward Thursday at an Advanced Plans committee meeting, in response to concerns around the child care shortage. The committee approved the changes.

“Just today, there was a news headline that indicated that it’s a two-year wait for anyone who's looking for child care,” said Scott Wadle, director of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Department.

Bullock said that her organization surveyed local child care providers, including about 300 home day care programs. About 100 would be interested in increasing the number of children they enroll to 12, she said.

The changes would also align the local zoning code with state regulations.

The proposed changes still need to be approved by the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Commission before being enacted.

“I’m glad that we’re addressing this,” said Cindy Miles, a member of the Advanced Plans committee. “… We have such a shortage of child care facilities, mainly because we’ve lost hundreds and hundreds of home child care facilities.”

Celia Hack is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Beacon covering local government and as a freelancer for The Shawnee Mission Post and the Kansas Leadership Center’s The Journal. She is originally from Westwood, Kansas, but Wichita is her home now.