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West Fargo taking steps to help with child care crisis

Commissioner Mandy George has pushed for the city to look into how it can help

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A local child care center. File photo.
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WEST FARGO — West Fargo is not immune to the national shortage of daycare providers, but some members of the City Commission are hoping to help the workforce issue that has affected many families.

Commissioner Mandy George said the limited daycare options for families in West Fargo and around the metro area has been a concern of hers since she was elected. She's heard from many residents requesting some sort of help to help address the issue.

Statewide the supply of child care meets 88% of the demand, according to a report by North Dakota KIDS COUNT, a statewide resource for data on the well-being of children. Child care is especially limited during non-traditional hours is limited across the state, with only 3% of licensed facilities open on weekends, 4% open during evening hours and 25% open during early morning hours.
The cost of child care is also an issue for many parents. About 5,000 children received financial assistance in 2020, but 21,000 children live below the poverty line in North Dakota.

So, George took the initiative of bringing forward an exploratory group to the City Commission as a whole. With the commission's approval, she and Commissioner Mark Simmons along with city staff including the new Economic Development Director Casey Sanders-Berglund, Assistant City Administrator Dustin Scott, Administrator Tina Fisk, Planning Director Aaron Nelson and Malachi Peterson, met recently to brainstorm ideas on how the city might help alleviate the problem.

"I see stories in the paper, it was a big issue that candidates are talking about," George said. "There just isn't any childcare, It's not they're asking for free childcare, they're asking for help in finding some. I know we're not going to solve the issue but the good news is that we can at least help."

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Included in this month's utility bills is a link to a survey that George and other community members are hoping residents will fill out to help the group guage what the needs might be in West Fargo. The survey will remain online and residents are asked to add their input so that the committee can begin focusing on potential ways to help.

Statistics taken from North Dakota KIDS COUNT, show that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problems associated with child care, said Zach Packineau, director of outreach and programming for North Dakota Voices Network, a nonprofit civil rights group.

The main issues include the affordability of child care, the worker shortage with low pay of about $11 an hour and the lack of availability for child care centers, Packineau said.

In the meantime, George said the city is believed to have about 10 daycares and the committee hopes to reach out to each and find the most pressing needs for the existing centers.
From there, the city may be able to help with such things as CPR and health certifications, something Fire Chief Dan Fuller is already working on.

Fuller and the West Fargo Fire Department is upping its game when it comes to offering free CPR, Heart Saver and AED training, which will help daycare organizations which require staff to be trained in CPR.

Fuller said the fire station has offered CPR and Heart Saver classes. In an effort to help child care providers reach certification requirements as quickly as possible when new staff hired, the department wil not only waive the class fees for childcare providers, but if an organization has a group of six, for example, who need to attend a class, the fire department will actually work with the group and come to them for classes.

"Those are small things maybe we can help with to make a difference," George said.

George said from there, the city may look at if it's possible to use economic development funds to provide a sort of grant program or tax credit to facilitate additional childcare openings in West Fargo. In the meantime, it will continue to gather as much information and ideas from residents as possible.

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"Let's continue to gather information and address the problem any way we can," George said. "Maybe we can collaborate with Fargo, the county or maybe even on the state level. We'll be looking at the bigger picture as well."

Click here to complete a survey on access to child care in West Fargo: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NSV8QV2
For those interested in receiving CPR training through the West Fargo Fire Department, contact the community risk reduction officer, Travis Olson at the fire station at (701) 515-5600.

READ MORE FROM WEST FARGO EDITOR WENDY REUER

Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at wreuer@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

Related Topics: WEST FARGO
As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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