Phedra Redifer, executive director of Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, spoke with Community Impact about the current state of early childhood education in North Texas, and the barriers families and child care providers face with rising program costs.

Workforce Solutions offers assistance for families in accessing child care and partners with early learning programs to provide training, lesson plan development and resources.

What is the current state of early childhood education in North Texas?

It is truly the goal that all Texas children are ready to enter school with the foundational knowledge and skills to be curious, competent and successful learners, and that really begins with prekindergarten. About 62% of Texas children’s caregivers work outside of the home, so for those families, the access to high quality child care is a must.

The average wage for a child care worker is around $13 per hour. In the state of Texas, [we] really need to look at more innovative ways to elevate the child care profession as a whole, so we can ensure those who are tending to our early childhood workforce are able to earn a living wage.

As workforce development, we are really the conduit in this industry and with our ecosystem of partners to help figure out what is necessary for us to all collaboratively work on so that we can really ensure we’re strengthening the early child care system in the state of Texas.

Are staffing challenges affecting child care providers in North Texas?

They are. In fact, we have some child care facilities that may have the classroom space, but cannot open up the classrooms because they do not have enough child care educators to be in those classrooms. The younger the child, [then] the higher the ratio is of adult to child. When you’re from 0 to 3 [years of age], you certainly need more adults in the classrooms.

How is early childhood education important for children?

The majority of brain development begins between the ages of birth to 5. That development really provides the foundation for all future learning and expanding the opportunities for a child to develop. Any type of development and learning at these ages impacts long-term social, cognitive, emotional and physical development. Early education and development are affected by socioeconomic status and access to quality early learning opportunities. It is significantly important that we continue to invest in early childhood education because that’s where it all starts.

Why is it important that groups such as Workforce Solutions are helping parents access early childhood education?

We really need to make sure that [children] are prepared for kindergarten and embrace teacher learning. We have our early childhood specialist called mentors. They work with the child care program staff on best practices and modeling appropriate behavior. They also work with the early childhood program staff on how to set up a high-functioning early learning environment, indoors and outdoors. Child care throughout the country is on the brink of being open or closed on a daily basis. It's such a fine line.

We really make a difference in the lives of young children and families, and we do that through all the support that we provide to our early learning programs.

Has early childhood care become more expensive? How is inflation affecting parents and early childhood education programs?

Yes, emphatically yes. It’s definitely become more expensive. Inflation has obviously increased, and we have seen the child care costs increase ahead of the inflationary rate. Programs have to increase how much they’re paying in order to beat out the competition.

It’s a monetary hardship for most families to afford high quality child care in our region, and throughout the entire state and our country. It's costing a lot for these directors to even pay for opening their doors. It costs more to operate a child care program. There is some property tax relief for child care facilities. Utility costs have gone up. The food that children eat in those child care centers ... has gone up. It’s impossible for a child care operator to absorb all those costs. It is very much a tumultuous time in the child care industry.

How has this affected the need for financial assistance for child care?

We are able to provide scholarships to income eligible families. These families have the opportunity to have a child or children go to our early learning programs that are Texas Rising Star certified through the state of Texas. There's a parent's share of cost, which then helps alleviate the cost that a parent would pay in order for them to have access to child care in order for them to go to work. We're very happy to be able to provide this to them.

Because the need is so great, every Workforce Development board in Texas, that I'm aware of, has a waitlist for child care support. [Workforce Solutions of North Central Texas has] about 6,000 families who are interested in learning more about the child care services support that we can offer. We really look at our job as being holistic in trying to support the family, and a big portion of that is related to early childhood.

What resources are out there for parents in regards to child care or parenting?

2-1-1 Texas is a free, confidential information and referral line [with] certified specialists 24/7. When you call 2-1-1, you are connected to the information center in your region that can help with food, shelter, rent assistance, utility bill assistance, child care [and] after-school programs.

If you go to our website,, everything I referenced and even more is on there. We really believe that if people find us related to child care, we’re going to arm them with even more support and resources.

We want to stabilize them with their child care needs, because we find that it's valuable starting early because of what they're going to need and continue to need throughout their education journey, all in an effort to support workforce development later on down the road.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that about 62% of Texas children’s caregivers work outside of the home.