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Day care options reduced as Killdeer's center closes

Killdeer lost its largest licensed child care center June 1 when Patty Gerriets' day care closed.

Dodge resident Sarah Duttenhefner's two children, ages 4 and 8, attended Gerriets' day care until this month.

Duttenhefner said parents received notice in February that the day care would close in August. In April, she said the closing date was moved to June 1.

Duttenhefner, a Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing employee, said her husband, who is a farmer/rancher, is watching the children for now.

"It's extremely difficult to find day care," she said. "I have extended family that are retired and can help out, but it could be bad if they didn't have time to take the kids. We do have one individual here who has to be home for two weeks because the day care closed, and she doesn't have retired family members who can help out like I have."

Jennifer Barry, early childhood service administrator for the North Dakota Department of Human Services, said her office learned earlier this year about Killdeer's day care issue.

She said Gerriets' day care was licensed to serve 18 children, though she did not know how many children were attending the facility when it closed.

Barry also could not say why the facility closed because her office is not usually privy to the reasons behind a shutdown.

Several attempts to contact Gerriets were unsuccessful.

A lack of viable day care options could negatively impact the local workforce, Killdeer Mayor Dan Dolechek said.

"The day care that closed was the largest licensed facility we had in Killdeer, I believe, but there are also a few women who provide day care out of their homes but I don't know if they're licensed," he said. "I'm sure there would probably be more people willing to work if there were more day cares in the area for them to send their children to."

Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing worked two to three months to create a day care for their employees' children, Duttenhefner said. The facility is expected to open for its workers as soon as Monday.

The day care may eventually be available to the public.

Barry said the Killdeer community is behind more day care options.

"There is a lot of support in the area and a lot of people are requesting information about becoming licensed child care providers," she said.

The demand for child care is high across North Dakota, particularly near the oil fields, Barry said. The greatest demand is for day care providers for infants and toddlers, children with special needs, and children whose parents work non-traditional hours.

Qualifications and the length of time it takes to become a licensed day care vary based on the type of center. Barry said the required background check would also take between two weeks to two months to complete.

Day care providers must undergo a licensing study that includes a tour of the facility and have initial CPR and first aid training.

Barry said anyone interested in opening a licensed day care center should contact their local social services office. Start-up assistance, including funds and training, is available through the North Dakota Department of Human Services.