Current shortage of quality child care worrisome

By Tryna Muilenburg
   Director, Commission
   on Children and Families
   In spite of the busyness of the holiday season, a few people have spent their December Saturdays training for the business of child care.
   NeighborImpact's Child Care Resources of Redmond came to Madras on the first two Saturdays of December to provide the training needed for individuals to become registered or certified child care providers.
   According to Oregon's Child Care Division rules, a child care provider must be registered if caring for more than three children from more than one family other than the person's own children, but can care for no more than 10.
   A certified provider can serve up to 16 children with the help of a qualified assistant. To become certified, providers must have a higher level of experience and education than what is required for registered providers.
   This effort, supported by the Jefferson County Commission on Children and Families was a result of a concern by the commission and its Early Child Committee that there is currently a shortage of quality child care in the Jefferson County community.
   The recent growth in the community has stretched existing resources, and with the new prison expecting to hire up to 200 employees by June 2007, we appear to be moving into a crisis situation.
   Statewide, the issue of child care has risen to a level of concern equal to economic development. In fact it is a workforce issue. This is why the Child Care Division, which regulates child care, is part of the Oregon Department of Employment.
   A shortage of infant and toddler care is particularly worrisome. Infants and toddlers require a great amount of individual attention. It is expensive for parents, and not always cost-effective for providers to offer the service.
   Parents must have a safe situation in which to leave their children in order to attend to their work obligations.
   Besides the December training days, other efforts are being made to expand the child care capacity in Jefferson County. The local early childhood directors have been meeting monthly to strategize how to maximize the space in the Children's Learning Center and the Oregon Child Development Coalition's new center.
   Also, the Tri-County Child Care Project, spearheaded by OSU Cascade Campus' Human Development and Family Sciences department, and funded by the three County Commissions on Children and Families as well as the Central Oregon Partnership, involves actively approaching local employers regarding the advantages of assisting employees with child care issues in some way as part of a benefits package.
   In Jefferson County, capacity is the issue. Employers may want to collaborate to develop the capacity by sharing in the cost of a new child care center or supporting a network of registered or certified family child care providers.
   With every issue there is an array of solutions. NeighborImpact's Child Care Resources and the group of newly trained family care providers represent an important contribution to meeting the need.