NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The demand for childcare has never been higher in Davidson County, though the supply of licensed facilities leaves many parents waiting and looking for alternatives.
At Rhythm and Rhymes in Donelson, Lori Finchum’s childcare facility has a Music City flair.
“Our philosophy is that children learn through play,” she explained. “Studies show that children who are exposed to the arts and are encouraged creatively very early on, excel academically in later years.”
Originating off Lebanon Pike nearly four years ago, Finchum found the need for childcare was so great they opened a second location just down the road.
“We bought that building, renovated it, and now have both locations, with close to 100 children,” she said.
It was brief relief for the Donelson area, in a problem that spans Davidson County.
According to census estimates, there are roughly 692,000 people in Davidson, of which 6.6 percent, roughly 45,000-plus, are kids under the age of five.
But countywide, there are only 432 licensed childcare providers.
“Again, there are more children than there are licensed spaces for,” noted Finchum.
Many families are left waiting like Christen Francis was four years ago.
New in town from Atlanta at the time, Francis found herself out of a job for months while looking for childcare.
“I thought I needed childcare right away,” she said. “And then I just had to deal with less income from not working, until [my husband and I] could figure out how to make our schedules work with each other.”
Waitlists can last for months, and once you’re off the list, the next hurdle is price.
According to a study by the University of Tennessee, the average weekly rate for a daycare ranged from $202 for an infant in Nashville, $190 for toddlers, and $160 for kids two years and older. These rates, all higher than both Memphis and Knoxville.
“My neighbor, that’s just crazy. She pays more than my mortgage for childcare,” said Francis. “You sit there and you’re doing the bills, and you’re like is this even worth me working?”
There is assistance for families in need.
The Smart Steps program offers payment assistance, for certain eligible parents who are working or seeking more education.
It’s accepted at select facilities, including Rhythm and Rhymes.
“Not all childcares accept those,” said Finchum. “But we do at both locations.”
So, if your little one is in need of care, Francis and many other parents urge you to be prepared to wait and get your name out early.
“If you’re moving to Nashville, I hope you’re trying to build relationships with people that are here that can help you,” said Francis.
News 2 is reporting on Nashville’s historic growth and the growing pains that come with it. Click here for more Nashville 2019 reports.