NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — There are nearly 1,200 licensed childcare programs in North Dakota, and the majority of them have hundreds of children on their waiting lists.

Some families that are planning to have a baby, are already reaching out to daycares, years in advance.

Many people working in the childcare industry see themselves as the workforce behind the workforce.

But for the most part, the licensed childcare demand overtakes the capacity that daycares have, especially in rural North Dakota.

“We’ve read some of the recent studies that Montreal County particularly is very under-resourced when it comes to the number of kids and the number of daycare spots available,” said Tom Foisy, the lead pastor for The Pursuit Church.

Childcare centers are also competing with other businesses in the workforce that need employees.

Some daycares are not able to function at full capacity because of the lack of workers.

“The challenge and struggle right now is, we’ve had to reduce the number of kids that we can take care of because we can’t find help, so it’s even a problem in daycare as well,” said Darrold Bertsch a board chair for the Knife River Care Center.

The state has stepped in by offering a $3,600 incentive to people who work directly with children in licensed childcare settings.

Some companies who are looking for workers are even including partnered childcare as a part of their benefits package.

Bersch said, “The communities of Beulah and Hazen work together in the industry, Dakota gasification, consortium, all came together with local healthcare entities and local banks to develop the childcare cooperative.”

The Pursuit church is also a part of helping meet the childcare need in rural cities.

A new church is being built in Stanley and members plan to open a full daycare in the facility as well.

“This is a major community need and we’re going to build this great facility, why not leverage it to meet a need in the community? One it will help us connect with more families, and two it will just be a big blessing to this community for those parents who want to get out and work and need an option and a place to go to,” said Foisy.

Communities coming together to support these challenges just goes to show how sufficient childcare is critical in supporting a successful workforce.

The state is using federal pandemic relief funding to support aspects like training, certification, recruitment, and retention in childcare.