I’m an untraditional student at the University of Southern Maine, and I’m also a mother of a 10 month old.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, courses were done remotely last year, but as the world has returned to a new normal state, I was tasked with finding childcare for this fall when classes resumed in person.

I ended up on 16 different waitlists for childcare centers throughout Franklin, Kennebec and Androscoggin counties. The pandemic had resulted in multiple facilities closing, which put pressure on the few facilities and their workers that are left.

I spent six months waitlisted, and in August I got a call back from two facilities a few weeks before the semester began.

My choices for part-time care were between a local facility that would accommodate my child, despite not having any other children in that age range, or a facility an hour away that was more expensive, at maximum occupancy, but was fully equipped to handle young children.

In the end, we chose the local, more affordable facility.

My story is not unique, and many families face similar dilemmas in Maine. The pandemic has shown a better light on the cracks in our systems, and our representatives need to hear us and push for more inclusive legislation.

I ask people to urge our members of Congress to support including childcare facility funding, fair employee wages and a more universal educational foundation in the Build Back Better agenda.

Samantha Donley, Wilton

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