ARE you planning on putting your baby in childcare in the next three years?
Well, get in line.
As local childcare waiting lists are longer than ever, prospective parents should be looking into placing their child on the waiting lists - even if they do not have a baby on the way.
In most centres around the region there are up to 50 babies on each waiting list and with a wait of up to two years, young families could be forced out of the Central Highlands.
Emerald mother Katy is due to give birth to her second child in September and has already put her unborn child's name on daycare waiting lists.
But if she can't get childcare, her family will have to move.
"By the time bub is due to start, he or she will have been on the waiting list for 12 months and still there is no guarantee. So my partner and I just ride the wave and wait and see how it goes," Katy said.
"We both know that if we can't get a spot we will have to move again as we can't afford to stay here.
"The cost of living in this town has increased substantially since my first (child) and I am again on the daycare roller coaster to get back to work after six months and support my family.
"No mum chooses to go back to work, we do it with a hole in our heart and a tear in our eye to try and support what means the most to us, our family, (and) the extra pressures surrounding the return to work decision are really unfair."
A former local childcare worker said mothers were getting desperate for childcare.
"There are people here who need to work to survive, especially living here," the worker said.
"Emerald is going to end up losing families with young children, because they won't be able to get childcare for their children."
"Every day we would have at least eight inquiries, parents would have finally found somewhere to live after months of waiting for a house, and then they realise they have no childcare.
"I've had two ladies just burst into tears - one even thought I was joking when I said it would be at least a one-year wait.
"Childcare regulations state that there can only be two staff members to look after eight babies and two staff to 10 toddlers. If more staff was to be hired, the room needs to be a certain size.
"You would be able to fill another two childcare centres in Emerald and fill them straight away.
"You've got the childcare crisis on one hand but you need staff as well. They come out here for a few months but realise they can earn more as a checkout chick. Childcare workers here are earning between $15 and $21 an hour.
"Desperate parents in Emerald are resorting to unqualified babysitters, despite the risks and danger of something going wrong in the hands of an inexperienced carer."