WATAUGA CO., N.C. — More than a thousand afterschool care spots are needed to meet the current demand in Watauga County, according to a recent childcare study.

What You Need To Know

  • Data from a recent childcare study revealed key areas of need in Watauga County
  • There’s a higher need for children up to age 4 and after-school programs
  • The study suggests more than 1,500 after-school spots are still needed

Lauren Wilson is a stay-at-home mom with four kids. She said the family does a lot together like hiking, zip lining and coloring.

“We like to do crafts,” Lauren Wilson said. She explained she wasn’t always a stay at home mom, though. She used to work with foster kids, but when her daughter, Addie, was born, she came up empty when searching for childcare.

“She was on a list until she was 15 months for a childcare center here, and that was 2015,” Lauren Wilson said.

Family had to drive an hour each way to help her, and by the time she had her third kid, she had to quit her job.

“A childcare payment for all four of them, including after care in elementary school, would be way more than our mortgage and car payment put together. It would be crazy,” Wilson said.

Her husband is a lieutenant with the Appalachian State Police Department. He says it’s not easy going to work and leaving his children for long hours.

“I’ve had a number of friends who left for work and didn’t come home, so it’s a requirement here. I don’t leave the house until all the kids and my wife tell me they love me and I get a kiss from everybody,” he said.

His daughter, Addie, agrees. She said when he needs to work the overnight shift, she misses him the most.

“Either I sleep with daddy’s pants or his sweatshirt,” Addie Wilson said.

They said they’re thankful that their mom can stay home with them all day. It’s a story Boone Area Chamber of Commerce President David Jackson said he hears often — the need for more childcare in Boone. He said the county recently completed a childcare study to find just how wide the gap was.

“Between zero and four is the need for 579 slots in Watauga County to get to full capacity,” Jackson explained. He added there is a big need for afterschool programs as well.

“The afterschool need is over 1600 slots,” Jackson said.

He has found that many families like Lauren’s have had to have one parent stay home.

“Waitlists are long across the state and what that really leads to is workplace insecurity from a labor perspective, hiring staff know they are just a phone call away from business disruption,” Jackson said.

Businesses need to help, according to Jackson. He added that the county may have to look into old programs that can be revitalized to help as well, but now at least they now know the scope of the issue.