LEBANON, Indiana — Inside Little Angels child care center in Lebanon, Cindy Tieken said there’s never a dull day.
"It's a lot of fun," Tieken said.
It's also a full house. The waiting list to get in is a year long.
For many child care centers across Indiana, that's not uncommon. The wait could be shorter, but administrators say finding enough workers to teach, play with and love on all those boys and girls is tougher than ever before.
"It's a challenge," Tieken said. "We've had times where people have left without notice and then we're really struggling to find employees."
On Facebook, one Indianapolis parent said his kids couldn't go to after-school care because it didn't have enough staff to watch all of the children.
13News called more than a dozen child care centers across Indiana and heard the same thing.
"It's extremely, extremely hard, with people being able to pay more than what we're able to pay," said Jameise Owens, a child care provider in Muncie. "It's just extremely hard to be able to compete with other jobs."
Median pay is $12-24 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means child care centers are competing with other jobs in the service industry including fast food and retail.
Across the country, the child care services industry is down 126,000 workers. Economists say until those positions are filled, many parents can't get back to work, and the economy can't fully recover.
"It's certainly affecting businesses," said Kyle Anderson, a professor at IU Kelly School of Business. "Think about businesses having to raise prices because they can't find workers. It's affecting the whole economy."
But paying employees more means charging parents more. And child care is already one of the most expensive line items in a family's budget.
Back at Little Angels, Tieken and her daughter, who owns the child care center, are trying to find the balance. And in the meantime, they're staying patient, knowing it takes a special person to do this job. It may not pay the most, but it does come with its own rewards.
"The kids are fun to be with," she said.