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Flooding worsens Minot child care shortage

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News Jamestown,North Dakota 58401
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Flooding worsens Minot child care shortage
Jamestown North Dakota 121 3rd St NW 58401

MINOT (AP) -- Minot's efforts in the past couple of years to ease a child care shortage suffered a major setback with the Souris River flood of 2011.


"The supply was really short before this happened and it's even a worse situation now," said Kristi Asendorf, program supervisor in Minot with Child Care Resource & Referral, a project of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.

The flood forced more than 40 programs to evacuate, affecting more than 1,000 children, she said. Many of the programs have not been able to return because homes have been damaged. Head Start, Trini-Tots and after-school programs of Good Shepherd Day Care Center in Minot and Burlington had their facilities damaged, though Trini-Tots expects to be able to return this fall from its temporary location at the YMCA.

Asendorf said Child Care Resource & Referral has focused on helping providers find temporary locations and on recruiting new providers. But recruitment hasn't kept pace with need, and new locations are pushing up against their temporary timeframes.

Some families have found summer child care solutions such as using services of college students, teenagers, school employees on break, or family and friends, Asendorf said. Those soon will be coming to an end, too.

"We just keep trying to be creative," Asendorf said. "The child care providers are trying very hard but there's only so much they can do."

The YWCA Early Learning Center plans to move into the YWCA shelter building this fall because of lack of space elsewhere.

The center had moved from First Presbyterian to a temporary site at Bethany Lutheran Church because of the flood. Staff and most families live on the south side of the river and the move made for better access, YWCA Director Deb Kunkel said. First Presbyterian opened its space to house Lincoln School, putting the YWCA in search of a new permanent location.

Because no other facilities are available, the YWCA board approved the use of the main floor of its shelter as a child care center. The move eliminates a proposed handicapped accessible apartment and community room and scales back office space. The shelter building has been undergoing renovation, and the main floor remains unfinished.

Kunkel said the YWCA needs to raise $125,000 to finish the $1.1 million building project. Due to the urgency facing the child care center, the YWCA may need to borrow the money upfront, she said. The center could be open in its new location within three weeks once the final construction begins.

Since the flood, the YWCA's list of people needing child care has grown, Kunkel said. The YWCA also took in additional children temporarily under the state's relaxed licensing guidelines during the emergency. The center was able to increase enrollment because of college students on staff who were able to add to their summer hours, Kunkel said.

The center serves 46 children ages birth to 5 and will be able to expand to up to 56 children in the shelter location.

Asendorf said finding other locations wasn't possible for some evacuated providers, forcing them to close. The mobile homes offered by the Federal Emergency Management won't be suitable for home-based child care, so a quick solution isn't likely for some displaced providers, she said.

Meanwhile, Child Care Resource & Referral is offering mental health resources to assist providers in working with children experiencing stress from the flood. Lutheran Social Services also has collected donations from child care providers across the state to provide supplies from water to diapers to assist Minot providers.