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A problem that grows Lack of child care programs in Stark County a concern

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High-chairs stand next to the provider's station, an apt illustration of how constant attention is always a priority (Photo courtesy of Tot's Landing Child Care)
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The oil boom brought many things to Dickinson, but it seems that among the most interesting was the baby boom — though it has multiple economical causes. According to the Stark Development Corporation's Dec. 2019 Economy at a Glance report, there were over 1200 babies born in at the CHI St. Alexius Health in the past two years.

Shortage of child care providers

In Stark County there is a potential demand for 4,092 children to receive early childhood development services, but there are only 50 state-licensed early childhood programs available. The shortfall of services leaves many parents and children on the outside looking in.

“Here in Dickinson, there is an extreme shortage of child care,” Emily Doliner ,region 8 childhood licensing specialist with the North Dakota Department of Human Services, said. “Especially for younger children, infants are probably in highest demand.”

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A licensed in-home child care provider, owner of Tot's Landing Child Care and mother of 5, Shauna Pengelly, has also recognized the dire need for infant care that Dickinson is facing.

“I have had three phone calls today alone for infants,” Pengelly said. “Me as a mom, I feel comfortable putting [my kids] in a bouncer and letting them sleep but in a daycare setting you can't do that. For one, they are not your children and two there are so many things that can happen. … The biggest thing is ensuring their airway is open. … It is harder for us because we don't have a place to set them where they will have that swaddle feeling and we can't hold them all day because we have so many children that we tend to.”

The report also indicated a limited number of available services outside of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and even fewer on weekends.

“There are always people looking and I know the waiting list is like a year long for some places,” Kim Flohr, an in home child care provider, said. “It is actually recommended that as soon as you find out your pregnancy that you get on a waiting list right away.”

What is required by the state

Though the demand is high, the state is certain to find the right people who can be entrusted with providing impeccable and healthy child care services.

“We are always in need of licensed providers. I know a lot of amazing unlicensed providers but there's always a risk when going with unlicensed. You don't have the same assurance as you do with a license.” said Pengelley.

Doliner explained the purposeful and diligent requirements of becoming a licensed child care provider within North Dakota.

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“All providers need to do a fingerprint background check; they have to be first aid and CPR certified; they have to do online training and that is continuous training year after year; and some may require specific education.”

North Dakota law, NDCC 50-11.1, requires the Department of Human Services to create and regulate licensing and standards of Early Childhood Services.

Licensed child care providers must maintain at the very least, the minimum standard regarding physical size of the facility, safety features; staff-to-child ratios; cleanliness; staff qualifications, which includes training and background checks.

“We use to have a large scale [child care service] on the south-side of town and I’m sure the rules have changed a little bit since then, but we provide background checks, we have to have so many hours of training, Social Services and the Fire Department also visits and make sure things are running smoothly,” said Flohr.

Ultimately these licensing regulations are necessary to enforce and assure that the children within these programs are being provided with proper well-being, safety, and developmental needs.

Recent changes and moving forward

As of Jan. 1, the social services department is being redesigned to better serve and deliver effective services through new zonings of the counties and promoting innovation through rate-by-case funding according to the North Dakota government website.

“[These changes] were part of senate bill 2124 that went into effect to redesign social services,” LuWanna Lawerence, representative of North Dakota Human Services, said. “There should be no impact to current or potential child care providers. All of the early childhood services requirements and regulations remain the same, and early childhood service specialists who conduct the licensing visits remain at their same location.

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While the shortage of child care providers remain, many steps are being taken at the federal and state levels to address the issues. In Stark County, residents interested in opening their own child care service must have training and demonstrated ability to work with young children and have a form of childhood development education.

Child Care Aware of North Dakota offers assistants in starting a licensed child care program. They provide information and guidance of completion of state required paperwork and regulations to gain a child care provider’s license in North Dakota.

“Child Care Aware is actually the contracted organization through the state of North Dakota who are the one who do the recruitment,” Doliner, said. “I do meetings with the clients and prospects and guide them to first see if it would be a right fit for them and if so, to be a successful child care provider.”

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Play area nicely organized before kids come in after lunch. (Photo courtesy of Tot's Land Child Care)

Related Topics: DICKINSON
Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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