North Dakota families becoming affected by childcare cost, accessibility

Local News

Childcare accessibility and cost are becoming a challenge for some working North Dakota families.

We spoke with childcare representatives from the state about how they’re improving access and adding funding.

“There are over 1,200 licensed and regulated child care programs in the State of North Dakota,” said Kay Larson, Director of Early Childhood Division with the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

That number may sound big, but having access to them is a problem for some families.

“Depending on where you live and the age of the child that you’re looking for. Access to child care can be very difficult,” Larson said.

NDHS offers child care cost assistance for children aged birth until 13 years old.

“It’s an average of $469 benefit per child. For an average of the number of families we serve is about half that so it’s about 1,529 families we serve,” said Sam O’Brien, Director of Program Administration.

Obtaining childcare assistance requires levels of qualification.

“They have to come in the application with 60% of state income for the first layer, and the second layer is that they have a childcare need,” O’Brien said.

Childcare is expensive and some parents are struggling with keeping up with the cost.

“We serve low-income families. From my perspective, those are the individuals who need that assistance the most,” O’Brien said.

The Department of Human Services offers funding through the Childcare Development Block and Federal Relief Dollars.

These programs help cover most of the childcare costs.

“If they charge $1,000 a month for that child to be there, childcare assistance would pay up to let’s say $900 a month,” O’Brien said.

“The annual price of childcare for infant care in North Dakota for a center averages $9,182, and for a home setting $17,000, ” Larson said.

2,500 children are estimated to be served throughout the state, and more funding is expecting to be added.

“This fall we will be offering grant money to strengthen the childcare sector and also have funding available to offer recruitment and retention incentives to childcare workers,” Larson said.

Larson said another problem related to the shortage in childcare is the pay.

“The starting hourly wage for the workforce was $10 or less an hour. That was for an assistant teacher,” she added.

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