Looking for child care? Connecticut addressing shortage, but obstacles remain

If you have kids, you know how hard it is finding child care. State officials say Connecticut is short 50,000 slots, but new programs are slowly filling the gap.
One of them is Smartly Fun in Shelton, where playtime happens in English and Spanish. Venezuelan immigrant Liliana Lobo started the business last year, and four kids are already on the waiting list.
"In Connecticut, we're really short infant/toddler spaces,” said Connecticut Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye. “We have almost enough preschool spaces for children, and after-school can be a challenge too for parents because of the short hours."
Bye visited Smartly Fun on Tuesday to highlight Lobo’s business. She's gotten $36,000 in federal relief money -- plus classes on how to run the business – through the Women's Business Development Council.
"She's taken over 20 hours of classes from how to gain business insurance to marketing, to understanding her financials,” said Louise Lisboa, WBDC's vice president of impact and operations. "We helped her apply for a startup grant for $6,000 to get this place open and running in her early months. And then we were really happy to support her earlier in the year with an expansion grant."
Lisboa said WBDC has helped launch 12 new child care centers and distributed $4 million to 210 businesses. The latest round of funding went out in July.
And that’s not all - millions more federal dollars are on the way. Day care centers that stayed open through the pandemic are receiving $130 million in stability grants from Connecticut’s share of the American Rescue Plan.
But there aren't enough workers, so many centers still have to turn children away. Instead, Liliana Lobo wants to see more smiling faces. Lisboa hopes the grants will help day care owners offer more competitive wages and attract more employees.
"They come every day in the morning and say 'Good morning, Miss Liliana!,’” she said. “That's so happy."
For help starting a child care business, contact WBDC. The state OEC can also help families find child care.