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Small N.D. towns, groups work together on child care

BISMARCK — Some small North Dakota towns and community groups are coming together to address a shortage of child care.

In Turtle Lake, part of City Hall is housing a child care program, The Bismarck Tribune reported. In Killdeer, the city, a local job development group and a nursing home are working together to provide space for a day care. And in McClusky, a child care facility is being partially funded by a job development authority and a merchants group.

“These may not initially seem like unique things to be happening, but in the world of child care it is huge,” said Penny Smith, spokeswoman for Child Care Aware of North Dakota. “It is those partnerships and relationships that make those situations unique.”

The agency estimates that nearly 85,000 children need child care in North Dakota, where the capacity of licensed child care is only about 31,000. A big reason is North Dakota’s flourishing economy, which is drawing job-seekers from around the country.

“The child care issue is a very big issue in our state,” Smith said. “There are some concerning situations happening, and there are also some quite positive things happening, as well.”

Tiny Turtle Daycare, which operates as a nonprofit with a board of directors, is one of the bright spots. Turtle Lake is reducing operating costs for the day care by not charging for utilities and renting the space for $1 a month, resulting in savings that are passed on to parents. The effort began two years ago.

“At the time, we had no day cares really at all,” said board president Jessie Anderson. “It was basically neighbors and grandmas and people taking turns watching kids.”

When the McClusky Job Development Authority formed a year ago, the first item of business it dealt with was a day care, spokeswoman Roberta Hunt said.

“The whole community kind of got involved,” she said. “A lot of volunteer labor went into getting up and running.”

In Killdeer, the Dunn County Job Development Authority raised money from local businesses to match a state grant. The city used the money to build Mama Bear’s Child Care on land donated by the Hill Top Home of Comfort nursing home.

“Small towns pull together,” day care director Selena Merriam said.