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Daycare shortage hurting everyone

Posted 7/20/11 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

To say that businesses in Watford City need workers is an understatement. ‘Help Wanted’ signs can be seen all over the windows and doors of local businesses. The population has risen to an estimated 4,000 people now living within a 10-mile radius of Watford City, and it has caused an overwhelming need for workers. But what is less publicized and in just as high of a demand is daycare.
“There are lots of good quality daycares in town, but just not enough to go around,” stated Bekki Larson, who runs a daycare out of her home in Arnegard. Tessa Moberg, owner of Wiggles & Giggles daycare in Watford City agrees.
“People call or stop in on a daily basis and want child care,” states Moberg. And both Moberg and Larson say that their waiting lists are long, and they just can’t fit everyone on them.
Though daycares seem to be lacking in availability, daycare owners and people thinking about starting up a daycare are not lacking in support.
Kathy Molland of Williams County Social Services handles the childcare provider licensing for McKenzie County. Molland states that there are many levels of licensing, and she is willing and eager to talk to anyone thinking about starting up a daycare.
The first and easiest level of qualification is for someone to become self-declared. “There are many self-declared childcare providers in McKenzie County, and that is probably a good place to start.”
The next level would be for someone to become a licensed childcare provider, and depending on whether they wanted to work out of their home or start an actual daycare center, the qualifications would vary.
“It’s a commitment,” Molland states. “It’s a lot of work, but if someone is willing to go through the steps, it is for their benefit.”
Molland stresses that if a person does want to watch children without starting a daycare and becoming licensed, they can only legally watch  four children or three infants, which the state considers to be any child under 24 months.
If someone does go through the licensing process, Molland says that they are then eligable to participate in the food programs offered by the state, which could also be of great assistance.
In addition to Molland and the Department of Social Services, Gene Veeder, executive director of the McKenzie County Job Development Authority (JDA), says that there is assistance available from local sources as well.
Veeder is all too familiar with the need for daycare in McKenzie County as he helped tackle the issue five years ago.
“With a combination of help from the Economic Development Corporation, the JDA, and the Roughrider Fund, we were able to prepare a package that helped Wiggles & Giggles get started,” stated Veeder
“They were a huge help,” Moberg says of the assistance provided by the community, “I was finishing up school in Minot and they got everything ready so that all I had to do was sign.”
With the support Moberg received she was able to secure a building and make renovations to turn it into the Wiggles & Giggles daycare facility.
Both Molland and Larson add that burnout is another reason childcare is so limited.
“This is a demanding job, and there are no retirement or health benefits,” Larson says. And Molland states that many of those providers who are licensed “have been doing this for a long time and they are tired, and if they are taking new kids, only want a few.” According to Molland, “there are only enough licensed providers to care for approximately 74 children in McKenzie County right now.”
That is not nearly enough, leaving many unable to return to work, or, if they are new to town, unable to enter the work force at all.
Anyone thinking about becoming a childcare provider is encouraged to  check out the state resources website at www.ndchildcare.org.
If you are working and know you will be adding to your family, but want to return to the work force, both Larson and Moberg encourage you to look for childcare as soon as possible. If you wait until the last minute you may be waiting for a long time.