‘We get ignored’

In-home daycares share stress over grant funding


Childcare is of utmost importance for many community members.

Whether it’s a two-parent household or a single-parent household, having someone there for your kids can alleviate stress and ensure your child’s safety.

One group of people that are overlooked are the in-home daycare providers, working day in and day out to keep a fun and safe environment for your children.

Formerly a ‘childcare desert,’ Seward and the neighboring towns of Staplehurst and Milford have established multiple childcare centers, eliminating the former title. This elimination resulted in a lack of grant funding given to centers, in-home daycares and before and after school care, according to Karen Sabatka, owner of Karen Sabatka’s Daycare.

Sabatka said she and other in-home daycare providers waited since Dec. 18, more than six months, to hear news about a possible restoration grant that would fund in-home daycare providers $25,000, daycare centers $250,000 and after-school and before-school care $10,000.

Mary Reetz, owner of Tiny Feet, said she runs her daycare in a separate property in Seward, but lives in Staplehurst. 

Reetz said she was hoping for the funding so she could make long-awaited changes to her daycare to benefit the kids.

The main change was to her screened porch to make it a space to teach different ages.

“If you've never done childcare, you have no idea how wear-and-tear it is,” Reetz said. “I had asked for that room (the renovation of the screened porch) and then I just asked for flooring and was going to repaint and get new high chairs.”

Issues with grant funding aren’t the only thing bringing in-home daycare providers more stress. Reetz and Sabatka both said issues with ensuring food for their kids has become difficult and might result in changes affecting parents.

“We were getting more money during COVID, of course. That slowed down, so we get about half the benefits that we do if we are on a food program and the price of food went higher,” Sabatka said. “So we kind of take our loss here and there, but how much longer can we go?”

The booming population hasn’t brought much help to these in-home daycare providers, though. Sabatka and Reetz both said there has been a significant increase in the number of infants in need, resulting in long waitlists for parents.

“We heard that we had the same kids on waiting lists as center’s lists,” Sabatka said.

The wait for some providers is long, Sabatka said people have started planning long before it usually needs to be done, ending up putting families in financial situations they wouldn’t usually find themselves in.

“A lot of these families are prepaying their spots,” Sabatka said. “They find out that they are pregnant (and call) in order to get their kids in. Financially, that’s becoming a burden with them.”

Another aspect of daycare is the parents of those kids. With these changes, Sabatka and Reetz both said parent support can be a great asset. 

Sabatka said support and understanding from parents in recent years has been incredibly helpful in reminding her why she is motivated to work in this career field.

“There's definitely a connection that I feel is stronger because they rely on us … They have been through some tough times. I think they appreciate who we are and what we do,” Sabatka said.

Reetz also said support is incredibly important, and that she wishes parents would see just how much work in-home daycare providers are doing for their children.

On top of parents, Reetz said she wants the community and lawmakers to realize just how important providers are and to support those running ones in their homes. 

“Us, as in-home childcare providers, we get ignored,” Reetz said.

At the end of the day, Reetz said she continues to pursue her passion in this field for one sole reason – the kids.

“It's bonding with each child – to watch them grow and help them learn to form their life,” Reetz said.