CCR&R seeks support to address child care shortageChild Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) has outlined strategies to deal with the shortage of quality child care in Jamestown and asked area businesses for support. Providing adequate, quality child care is a key economic strategy for a healthy community, according to Verla Jung, child care specialist at CCR&R. As important as child care is to attracting and maintaining a sufficient work force, Jung said the current shortage is a concern for area employers.
By: Jackie Hyra, The Jamestown Sun
Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) has outlined strategies to deal with the shortage of quality child care in Jamestown and asked area businesses for support.
Providing adequate, quality child care is a key economic strategy for a healthy community, according to Verla Jung, child care specialist at CCR&R. As important as child care is to attracting and maintaining a sufficient work force, Jung said the current shortage is a concern for area employers.
“Unless businesses facilitate the development of child care facilities as part of the economic infrastructure and support existing child care programs as sustainable enterprises, we will not have an available work force,” Jung said. “The entire community has a stake in developing sustainable child care businesses.”
Elise Miller, human services program administrator at Stutsman County Social Services, said her program assists 80 families with at least one working parent in each family, and a shortage of child care often limits their employment options to working from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Shift work is a problem — nighttimes or weekends,” she said.
Miller said the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program requires a single mother to look for work once an infant turns 5-months old, but there are few slots for infants. She said she deals with people who cannot find work because they can’t find infant care.
CCR&R’s data shows 820 licenses child care slots available in Stutsman County, which has approximately 2,200 children of child care age. Jung said several Jamestown businesses asked the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. Human Resource Round Table for help when they realized their employees were having difficulty finding child care. At the request of JSDC, CCR&R investigated the child care challenges in Jamestown through an online survey and community forums this spring.
CCR&R identified three areas of concern: availability of care — particularly infant care and backup care, quality of available care and an adequate, trained child care work force.
CCR&R outlined the following strategies — and estimated a need for approximately $179,000 — to address these challenges:
Lack of care/infant care: CCR&R proposes $25,000 be used as support for furnishings for new child care start-ups or expansion of existing programs. The goal is 50 new child care slots — 15 for infants — with up to $500 awarded per slot.
“There are quality child care programs out there, but demand surpasses the supply,” Jung said.
The program also calls for $100,000 for the creation of a restricted Jamestown Child Care Growth Fund to be held by the Jamestown Community Foundation. The fund will assist with renovating spaces for child care.
Quality of available care: CCR&R proposes $35,000 — $3,500 per program for 10 programs — be used to expand quality improvement programs through June of 2009 and $2,500 to create a public awareness campaign about the importance of quality child care.
CCR&R and the Department of Human services are cooperating in developing a statewide quality rating system for child care programs to be completed in 2009. The system will provide parents easy-to-use information about child care programs and child care programs a road map to meet quality standards. No funds are needed. Participation in the rating system will be voluntary, but Jung said parents will definitely check out the ratings once the system is completed, so it will benefit child care providers to take part.
Adequate, trained child care work force: CCR&R proposes using $2,000 — $80 per provider — to provide comprehensive training to potential child care workers through June, 2009. This will allow 25 child care workers to complete 10 hours of Health and Safety training.
An additional $4,500 — $1,500 per provider — will allow three child care workers to complete their Child Development Associate credentials.
CCR&R also proposes $10,000 be used to implement a job shadow/mentor program, providing 10 potential child care workers with a realistic understanding of child care.
A committee will be formed to administer funds quarterly. CCR&R suggests offering grants for furnishings for expansion, quality improvement and training. Funding for building or renovating spaces would be awarded as matched revolving loans that could become forgivable as programs prove sustainability and quality criteria —for example — at 20 percent per year for each of five years.
Funding: Financing a new program is, as usual, an overriding issue. Jung said parents can’t afford to foot the entire cost. People frequently suggest to her that the federal government should pay for new programs, but that isn’t likely to happen given the economy’s current state.
“We’d all like to be able to walk out to the government funding tree and pluck off some money,” Jung said, but that tree hasn’t been producing as it once did.
The Department of Human Services has informed the state Legislature of the need for more quality child care slots across the state, but Jung said so far CCR&R hasn’t been funded to build or expand existing facilities. Efforts to convince the legislature will continue, but she said public and private support will be necessary to provide sufficient quality child care slots for Jamestown employees and those who would like to move here to work. It has been only two weeks since Jung sent letters to area businesses asking them to lend financial assistance, and she hopes to begin receiving affirmative responses soon.
Jung said CCR&R will complete as much of the project as financial support allows. The quality rating system will be completed in 2009, and the agency will work to make the public aware of the identified challenges of child care availability, quality and work force. Beyond awareness, however, solutions will require money.
“Until we have the dollars, we can’t address those three issues,” Jung said.
For additional information, or to lend support, call CCR&R at 252-0350.
Sun reporter Jackie Hyra can be reached at (701) 952-8455 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org