ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Local child and home care workers rallied in Rockford on Thursday to address what they say is a ‘care crisis.’

“Over the past 12 years, Winnebago County has lost 57% of its licensed home child care providers and saw a reduction of 55% in child care slots at a time when the need for child care is growing,” said Brynn Seibert, vice president of the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) child care and early learning division.

“Working families are having a harder and harder time finding affordable, accessible care for their children,” continued Seibert. “These figures are a problem for Rockford and for Winnebago County, with potentially disastrous impacts for working families and people with disabilities.”

Union leaders and workers say low wages and a lack of retirement support have led to a significant labor shortage among child and home care workers. Thursday’s rally, part of a statewide ‘Good Care Jobs Sprint’ campaign, sought to highlight worker struggles and implore the Pritzker Administration to address “the mounting care worker crisis.”

“Because of my current wage, I don’t qualify for food stamps, I’ve applied several times. But I have to go to pantries to make sure I have enough food in the house for my family,” said Jeffery Higdon, who cares for his disabled son. “There are probably hundreds of health care workers out there, they’re in the same boat. That have to go to pantries, have to go to wherever, and maybe even qualify for food stamps in their area.”

Child care provider Ana Garcia says workers in her field do not receive a retirement fund.

“It’s something that’s really important for childcare providers because right now what we’re earning doesn’t allow us to put aside money to contribute to retirement,” said Garcia through a translator.

More than 45,000 child care and home care workers who provide care through state-run programs are currently bargaining with Illinois officials, according to SEIU.