Child care crisis in N.D.

Libby Claerbout, Minot

I am thankful to the N.D. Legislature for addressing the child care crisis with HB 1422, but I am deeply concerned over the bill’s wording that loosens licensing regulations and that omits financial assistance to child care centers.

Our family underwent the stress of finding new daycare for our daughters in August when the YWCA center closed due to financial strain. The task of locating alternative care was nearly impossible. For five weeks, I repeatedly called every child care center and home provider I could find, and was told over and over that there was either no openings, or that we would be added to waiting lists of 50-plus children. I am scared to death that the center we were lucky enough to find will soon close its doors for the exact reason that the YWCA closed.

If daycares in Minot are not granted some sort of relief soon, many will face the decision of closing their doors or significantly increasing rates. My husband and I both hold stable jobs with fair salaries. However, we cannot afford to pay what could soon be $2,600 per month for childcare. It would be terrible if an average, two-income family could not afford child care in Minot. Where would that leave individuals who are not as fortunate or who might be raising children alone? The financial aspect of this crisis is not being addressed in the bill’s current form.

Relaxing childcare licensing regulations is also a frightening thought. I am especially troubled by higher child per staff ratios. Anyone who has ever cared for a baby knows that five infants are way too many for one person to care for at once. Blistering diaper rash because little bottoms can’t be attended to quickly enough; wailing cries from hungry babies; daily incident reports filed because two teachers couldn’t possibly keep 14 2-year-olds under control. These are the inevitable incidents with the proposed ratios. North Dakota’s children deserve better quality care than this.

For the sake of our children and our families, I implore our leaders to amend HB 1422 to address these concerns before the crisis turns into an even bigger disaster.