Low staffing levels force YMCA to temporarily close 13 before, after-school programs


INDIANAPOLIS — A lack of applications are coming in, and there is an urgent need for staff at the YMCA’s before and after school programs.

Officials with the YMCA say they offer roughly 105 youth development programs across the greater Indianapolis area. However, 13 of those programs with the lowest enrollment will temporarily close by next week.

“We have ratios that we have to maintain to keep the kids safe,” said Amy Panetta, the YMCA’s Executive Director of Before & After School Programming. “So in order to do that we are unfortunately having to close some underperforming programs that have low enrollment so that we can utilize those staff and our best resources in some of the higher-enrolled programs.”

At North Wayne Elementary on the city’s west side, the after school program is here to stay. Still, staff are used to welcoming 65-70 students to their after school program. These days that roster is cut down to 50%, or roughly 35-45 students, due to low staffing levels.

“At this particular location I have parents who have been on the waiting list since we came back to school in February,” said Becky Ricks, site director for North Wayne’s after school program. “And that’s why we’re in such a desperate need of more staff.”

Panetta explained the YMCA’s youth development programs must adhere to state guidelines – meaning there must be at least one staff member for every 15 to 20 kids depending on their age.

“Even if we have a site that has 15 children, our policy is we have to have two staff onsite at all times. So whether I have 15 kids or 35 kids – I have to have two staff,” said Panetta. “And so that’s where it gets kind of difficult with those lower-enrolled programs because it’s using up another staff member.”

Employees of the programs set to close will be relocated to assist staff at schools like North Wayne Elementary where enrollment is higher.

“I did have a staff member give two-weeks notice about a week and a half ago,” said Ricks. “In the 22 years that I’ve been with the Y this is the worst that [staffing] has ever been.”

Panetta said she herself has jumped in to fill the gaps and continues to do so. She said the YMCA is offering several incentives like sign-on, retention, and referral bonuses. Hoosiers interested in a position with youth development, specifically, could even qualify for free childcare and YMCA memberships for the family.

“Because that’s another problem. It’s not just getting staff in the door, you’ve got to maintain the staff that you have and that’s been difficult as well,” said Panetta.

“I just want every site to be at a level where it makes the environment safe,” said Ricks. “Childcare is not necessarily a difficult job – it’s more rewarding… they teach me as much as I teach them.”

To learn more about the YMCA’s Before & After School Programming, or to apply for a position, click here.

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