For years, a patchwork of afterschool programs in Dallas have provided care for thousands of children and reassurance to working parents their kids are in a safe place for the hours after classes end.

Then the pandemic hit—and like so many other facets of family life in America, Dallas’ afterschool programs felt the effects, closing down or drastically shrinking as program staff quit for higher paying jobs in other industries and fear over COVID-19.

With fewer spots available, children are now waiting up to 60 days to be enrolled. Another way to see it: For every child in an afterschool program in Dallas, there are three to four waiting for an available spot.

“We saw there was about a 45 percent seat loss in programs that were either no longer able to run, or that had to close,” said Dallas Afterschool vice president of program services Marjorie Murat. “These afterschool programs are really a lifeline for working families, and they exist to support the working families and sustain the family unit.”

The afterschool shortage in Dallas is not unique.

As the pandemic has continued, afterschool programs across the country are facing staffing shortages, forcing them to reduce the number of children they serve or close down completely.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the long-standing issue of low wages of afterschool staff, advocates said. Most afterschool care programs have a starting salary of $9-$12 an hour. Coupled with rising concerns about the virus and now the Delta variant, many are not returning to work, with some leaving for jobs that pay much more and are less risky.

Read the full article about the uncertainty of afterschool programs by Cheryn Hong at The 74.