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Working parents chime in on child care challenges as state task force takes suggestions over Zoom

In the first of two virtual town halls, the Iowa Child Care Task Force heard from parents across the state who are having trouble finding affordable child care.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Matt, a father of three, joined the Zoom call from a cow barn in Dyersville. Amy, a 25-year-old single mother, joined from her child's soccer game. Others joined while cradling newborns. 

From every part of the state, while juggling their busy lives Thursday, working parents took time to join a virtual town hall with the state's Child Care Task Force. 

Representatives from the Iowa Department of Human Services and Iowa Workforce Development took suggestions.

For many, the lack of affordable childcare options is a big concern. 

Matt Vorwald, from Dyersville, works in IT by day and farms and night.

"Child care and three kids in Dyersville, Iowa is about $18,000 a year," said Vorwald, on the meeting. "Maybe in Des Moines or Cedar Rapids, that might sound cheap, but...when you live in smaller towns, you don't make the bigger figures you do in the bigger cities."

Other parents, like Shannon Grundmeier, said new parents might not even be aware of how long the waitlist can be at daycare centers.

"I remember touring some of the more expensive child care facilities in our area at three months pregnant and was told there was absolutely no way I would have a spot before the baby was born," said Grundmeier.

One of the state task force's biggest priorities is creating more options for working parents like Grundmeier. 

A report released in February compiled by Early Childhood Iowa and ISU Department of Human Development and Family Studies found that Iowa has the highest percentage of parents with young children with both (or the only) parents in the workforce. 

RELATED: Here's how the state is working to improve child care access, services in Iowa

Erica Schaefer, a working mother from Des Moines, advocated for on-site child care.

"We can sort of sell it in terms of keeping moms in the workforce," said Schaefer. "I spend so much time every day pumping, not necessarily being productive for my employer."

RELATED: Pandemic forces more women out of work than men