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Byrd's Nest: Day care impossible to find in Oil Patch

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For many working parents, day care is a virtual prerequisite when thinking about remaining in or returning to the workforce. Finding a provider in the Oil Patch, well, that’s no easy task.

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For the past 17 months or so, my wife and I were fortunate enough to have found a day care provider who took children on a part-time basis, without requiring a full-time price. (I have issues with paying someone for services they did not provide or for time they did not work.)

Klark Byrd My wife works a full-time day-shift job while I work full-time here at the newspaper in the afternoons and evenings. The way our work schedules overlap, we require 12 to 14 hours of day care each week for our 1-year-old son, Charlie.

Unfortunately, Charlie was booted on Nov. 1 from the day care provider who had watched him since he was 6 weeks old due to a staffing issue that led the provider to decide to no longer provide services for part-time children. The staffing issue put the provider in a bind, which unfortunately meant my wife and I joined the ranks of Oil Patch parents with no day care for their children.

And there’s plenty of parents facing this issue. In January 2012, The Press ran a story on the issue as it affected Williams County. The story said, “A fall survey found nearly 2,500 children potentially needing day care in Williams County and licensed capacity for only 471, according to North Dakota Child Care Resource and Referral.”

The problem has only worsened since then as more and more families pour into the region from other parts of the U.S. and world to reap the benefits of the current Bakken oil boom.

Later in 2012, Gov. Jack Dalrymple proposed a pilot program to provide energy impact grants to cities to help buy modular child care facilities. A June 2012 story stated, “The state has about $870,000 that could be used for a cost-share program that would require cities to secure a location and pay a portion of the cost for the modular facility. Each modular is estimated to cost $250,000 and is designed for up to 18 children.”

The extent to which this program has been utilized in this area is unknown to me, however I know that when I call day care numbers listed in the phone book, there are no openings. Especially for a part-time child.

So, like the many other Oil Patch families, we adjusted the best we could. My wife now wakes at 3:30 a.m. to be at work around 4:30 a.m. and when she comes home between 2-2:30 p.m., I go into the office and stay until my work is done for the night.

It’s an unexpected strain on our personal relationship, but we feel lucky to have Sundays together. Other than that, and Monday evenings, we see each other for about 45 minutes each day.

So for all you other can’t-find-day-care parents, know you’re not alone as the area and state struggle to help find ways of providing a service required if they’re serious about wanting families to move to, live in and work in the Oil Patch.

And on the bright side of things for us, Charlie sure is enjoying spending all his time with his parents. We’re enjoying him too.

Byrd is the news editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at kbyrd@thedickinsonpress.com

or tweet him at klarkbyrd.

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