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Hospital addressing daycare deficiency

By Staff | Nov 15, 2013

The staggering figure of 75 percent daycare deficiency in Pierce County came as little surprise to Mindy Stier, a daycare provider for 12 children in Rugby.

Just before Stier was informed of the statistic – part of a study conducted by Child Care Aware of North Dakota – she received yet another call from a parent inquiring about her home-based business.

“I feel bad,” Stier said. “On my way here, I got another call, ‘Am I still on your waiting list?’ People have grandmas, aunts and uncles helping them out, and maybe struggle with working different shifts to offset each other, so their kids can stay home.”

Part of the problem will be solved when Heart of America Medical Center opens Kidz Next Door, a daycare center set to open next year with a 46-child capacity.

The center, which will take up two floors in the old nurses’ dorm, will be an option for HAMC employees only. Remodeling for the center will begin in January. With HAMC being one of the larger employers in the city and county, that high percentage will at least drop a little. HAMC will also have an easier time recruiting and retaining employees with young children.

Kidz Next Door director Lyndsey Graner said hospital employees will have the option of receiving a stipend for other daycare providers, if they prefer to stay with their current provider.

“We’re not trying to be competitive. We’re just doing it to help our employees out,” Graner said.

Graner added that an employee survey showed there is interest for 59 children between the ages of six weeks and 12 years. The center will be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.

Child Care Aware is a program of Lutheran Social Services in western North Dakota and Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership in eastern North Dakota. The organization educates child care providers and those seeking care for their children with county-by-county studies and more.

The organization’s September report showed that Pierce County had the capacity to provide licensed care to 146 of the 570 children ages 12 and under, who potentially need care due to parents in the workforce. Pierce County has one daycare center (The Growing Place) and six group providers like Stier.

“If anybody’s interested in becoming a provider they should check with social services,” Stier said. “There’s a lot of stay-at-home moms, so maybe somebody could take a couple in to help people out.”

Stier moved to Rugby in 2007 and is in her sixth year as a provider. She’s licensed through social services to provide for 12 children, but has a waiting list of 23. Providers may be granted waivers to exceed their limit, but simply adding just one child presents challenges.

“I just feel bad that there’s not something more than can be done, but I just can’t take any more kids,” Stier said.

The Growing Place has 64 children, but no more than 50 at one time. Slots for babies and toddlers have been full for about a year-and-a-half, director Julie Grove said

“When people find out they’re pregnant they get right on the list,” Grove said. “We’re pretty full until next summer.”

Grove is aware of the deficiency in the county and has worked with Jodi Webb of Child Care Resources and Referrals in Minot. Finding solutions proves difficult with only four full-time employees on a staff of nine.

“It’s just really hard to find workers,” Grove said. “It’s hard to find employees for what a daycare can pay.”

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