Licensed providers also see need for daycare

Numbers may lie, but telephone calls don't. The potential for daycare in the Dickinson area is obviously there if you simply look at the numbers - there are 873 slots for nearly 3,000 children. What the numbers don't say is whether the remaining ...

Numbers may lie, but telephone calls don't.

The potential for daycare in the Dickinson area is obviously there if you simply look at the numbers - there are 873 slots for nearly 3,000 children.

What the numbers don't say is whether the remaining 2,000 children are being watched by relatives, neighbors or parents balancing schedules.

Telephone calls, on the other hand, clearly emphasize the need for more daycares in town.

Daycare providers in the county said they get anywhere between three and 20 calls each week asking if they have space to take more children. The answer is almost always no.


It's not that the providers aren't willing to help. As licensed providers, they have caps on how many children they can care for and most are at capacity.

"I have a waiting list," said Kim Flohr, who runs Tyke to Teen Bed and Breakfast. "It slowed down during the summer, but during the school year, I averaged about three calls per day."

So when the providers are asked if there is a need for daycares in Stark County, they offer a resounding yes.

"Oh, definitely; that's why I'm looking at opening a center," said Jenny Moser, owner of Kinder Kidz Learning Center.

Moser is licensed to care for 36 children, which is called double group daycare. Groups are allowed a maximum of 18 children, but if a facility is large enough a person can be licensed to have a double group.

The next step up is a center, which provides care for 19 or more children, depending on square footage of the building and the adult-to-child ratios.

Like Moser, Flohr is also thinking of expanding her operation.

"I'm actually hoping to go to a group license by the end of the summer," Flohr said. "I'm looking for a bigger building."


Flohr's current operation, a family daycare, allows a maximum of seven children by licensing standards. Flohr is also one of the few daycare providers in the community who offers 24-hour service. She operates with two employees and some part-time help from two family members.

Care concerns

Moser said she believes there is a bigger need for more overnight care, but most providers agreed the biggest gap is in infant care.

Provider Edith Norton said in a program like hers, a licensed family daycare, it's almost impossible to provide night or 24-hour care. She operates from 5 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m., and said that in itself is a long day for a small program.

The providers said licensed or unlicensed and family or group daycare options were a matter of a parent's preference.

Flohr offered, however, one caveat. She has heard a couple of times rumors about people recently released from treatment or jail trying to start unlicensed programs.

Unlicensed programs are not illegal, as long as the provider cares for five or fewer children, including his or her own.

Peggy Jurgens, who runs Little Pebbles group daycare, said there are also some issues with people only wanting to provide care for children who are there full time.


Jurgens said it's hard to run a facility part time, because it's harder to organize who is coming when and for how long and on what day. She also said more people who get into the business prefer to work normal workday hours.

She also wonders if the Dickinson Public School's decision to move to full-day, every day kindergarten will impact her business, but she imagines the need will remain.

In smaller communities, there may not even be options for services.

"We don't run into needing weekend (care), but during the week, I'm the only daycare in Belfield," said provider Michelle Thomas.

Thomas is licensed to have 18 children and is currently at capacity. Like many providers, she made the step to daycare after a job where she worked with young children.

"I run it out of my home, so for me, it's not as bad as people who buy a building to run out of," Thomas said of her operating expenses.

Making ends meet

The question of expenses is a big one. The costs to prepare for children are tough and the return isn't great.


"It's a vicious cycle, but daycare is not a money making business," Norton said. "I'm getting by and that's about it."

Jurgens said she doesn't believe her finances are in the red, however, she admits operating a daycare is quite a lot of work.

She also said from time to time, she gets a parent who runs off without paying for services. Jurgens used to believe it was just her being na?ve, but has heard the same from other providers.

"You don't get a lot of respect; I do daycare for people and I'll have wonderful parents who are very respectful, and then you might have one sour apple," Jurgens said.

Jurgens said, however, she doesn't blame parents entirely. She said the government should be helping single moms more if they're trying to better themselves through school and work, while raising children.

Still, for Jurgens, like most providers, the tough work is worth it.

"I always say I have the best job in the world," Jurgens said. "I enjoy what I'm doing and I hope I'm helping these children have good self esteem and feel good about who they are."

Norton said her satisfaction comes from being her own boss and watching these children grow up.


"I wouldn't trade it for any occupation; I wouldn't trade it for any award," Norton said.

That doesn't mean everything is perfectly fine.

Valerie Van Ells, who runs Learn and Play Preschool, said she used to run a daycare and hasn't seen many changes since she got out of the business.

She said even in her preschool program - there are only six providers in town - she's already full for the next school year.

"People need preschools and they're not finding any openings anywhere," Van Ells said.

To operate a preschool program, a provider needs a degree in elementary or early childhood.

"I started doing preschool about 10 years ago," Van Ells said. "Things haven't changed too much."

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