EO’s mission is to research, pilot, and scale innovative solutions so that people and communities can thrive.

Learn More

As the needs of Southwest Virginians change, so too do the best practices for meeting those needs.

Learn More

Join us in our fight for our friends and neighbors in Southwest Virginia by exploring the options below.

Learn More

Together, we can create endless opportunities for our region to thrive.

Our Purpose
Learn More
Learn More
Learn More

Childcare Crisis

June 18, 2024

Author: Lindsey Holderfield, Director of Employer Services

In the last few years, we’ve heard first-hand accounts of families getting on waitlists for childcare from Abingdon, Virginia to Johnson City, Tennessee because they are so desperate to find childcare. Mothers add their names to childcare waitlists the moment they discover they’re pregnant in hopes of having childcare by the time their child is a toddler.

As families struggle to find childcare, childcare center owners are struggling with razor-thin profit margins and early childhood classrooms are closing because of teacher shortages.

At maximum estimates, existing childcare programs can serve just 41% of children birth to 5, with more than half of those sites operating at 80% or less than the capacity they are licensed to serve because of teacher shortages.

A recent employer study revealed that lack of reliable childcare was one of the top reasons employers were not able to run at full capacity. When parents are not able to go to work, employers are not running at full capacity, and childcare centers are closing despite long waitlists, it is a wake-up call about a system in crisis.

Braiding Together Multiple Solutions to Solve a Complicated Issue

Teacher Shortages

The Early Childhood Education (ECE) Career Pathway program is a critical initiative to recruit, train, and place aspiring childcare teachers into classrooms throughout Southwest Virginia. A partnership between EO and Virginia Career Works, the program also increases engagement with the emerging workforce to build a pipeline of future workers pursuing careers in early childhood education.

An important part of the ECE Career Pathway is expanding interest in the field, and our talented recruiters attend events and fairs to talk about how meaningful and rewarding the work can be. People interested in becoming educators then attend a 27-hour online or in-person course that prepares them to become teacher aides in ECE classrooms, including necessary certifications and guidance on obtaining required background checks. We’ve also partnered with high schools and community colleges to offer credit for completing the course, thereby building a pipeline for future ECE teachers and staff. Once the coursework is completed, we then help those students get jobs and do not consider our work done until they successfully have a job at a local childcare and education center.

In the last 15 months, EO’s ECE Career Pathway program has successfully placed 125 individuals into childcare jobs at childcare centers across our region, and we’d like to place another 100 in the next year.

Operational Capacity

The childcare crisis is complicated, and staffing is only one of the challenges. In addition to recruiting, training, and placing qualified teachers, EO is working to increase the operational capacity of early childcare centers through its Shared Services Alliance. This program supports existing and emerging childcare facilities and is very beneficial for small to mid-size childcare facilities that need back-office support. We have 40 childcare centers participating in that program.

The next program we’re rolling out under the Shared Services Alliance is a Directors Academy, which will help leaders gain and expand their educator and business skills. This program is still in development, and we hope to launch it this summer.

A Way Forward

The Childcare Crisis is complicated, widespread, and impacts our entire region. It is going to take all of us, employers, philanthropists, legislators, childcare centers large and small, and nonprofits like us, locking arms so that our littlest learners have every chance at success.

Together, we can go far.


Guidestar Platinum Seal of Transparency Charity Navigator Four Star Charity


Forgot Password

Don't have an account? Create one here