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Long wait, high costs for daycare in Louisiana

"At previous schools I've worked at, the waitlist was years-long, especially for infants."

NEW ORLEANS — Merritt Coscia was opening a restaurant when the pandemic started.

But as lockdown went into effect, she and her partner got another surprise: A baby.

"Once we finally gave birth and realized that, okay, we need to start looking at things because I can't realistically work with a kid strapped to me the entire time," Coscia said.

But that's exactly what she did.

"At first, I was back in there two weeks after giving birth with him strapped to me," she said.

With limited resources and the long wait lists at daycares, Coscia and her partner had to take care of their baby while running the restaurant.

"Eventually, he got too heavy and I wasn't able to carry him that way," she said. "I ended up actually having to see a chiropractor twice a week because of the damage that he caused my shoulder blades."

They aren't the only parents struggling to find child care. According to the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, more than half of our state's licensed daycares have a wait list — some going back more than a year.

Depending on your options, you may need to register long before you've even had your baby.

That's one of the reasons Liza Drennon opened The Crescent School.

"At previous schools I've worked at, the waitlist was years-long, especially for infants," Drennon said. "The wait list could be over 100 people."

Drennon has worked in childcare for years and saw an obvious need for more birth-to-two care — especially in her neighborhood, Algiers Point.

"I had a lot of conversations with people in the neighborhood with like a big sigh of relief that there was another option for the younger child or the younger sibling to come to school," she said.

Merritt is also breathing a sigh of relief — her son is set to start daycare next month.

"For the first time since we opened the restaurant, I am not pregnant. And I’m also not like physically holding a child with me," she said. "I’m going to be a baller restaurant owner, like, for the first time."

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