Can child care and day care survive in Juneau?

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Assembly Child Care Committee took testimony from five child care and daycare operators Friday.

    How to increase access to day care and how to make it affordable are two of the main questions the child care committee has asked.

    Challenges these facilities face include staff turnover, the lack of health benefits for employees, too many regulations, and the high costs for child care for families that can't afford it.  Several said their business can't make a profit.

    Barbara Mitchell has provided child care for over 25 years.  When she started the child care program she wanted to get young mothers time with their infants and at the same time bring home a small salary to benefit the home.  It has been tough financially to keep the day care center going.  It was difficult to find highly educated staff for the small compensation they could offer.  Her administrators have voluntarily cut their own salaries from $22 to $18 per hour to keep the center going.  "We are trying to meet as many community needs as we can including part time care.  We wanted to focus on toddlers and infants.  The real need is infant care and we need more caregivers."

    Joy Lyon, Executive Director of Child Care Assistance Program in Southeast Alaska. said there are eight child care facilities and 21 programs in Juneau.  She said federal funds from block grants benefit child care in the state.    She said child care is a local level investment. 

    Samantha Adams said she couldn't have afforded to operate a child care program without her husbands income and benefits.  She said her teachers had a passion for early childhood education but still had to pay the bills.  Adams said if the community had more day care programs the quality of each would improve.  "We want to hit on what quality programs look like."

    Amber Frommherz of Tlingit Haida Head Start gave an overview of the program.   They operate only a couple of hours per day.   "Our goal is to be parent driven, a family wrap around hub, we connect them to medical services, family education and mental health services."

    They have two classrooms in the school district at Gastineau Elementary and Mendenhall River Elementary School.  A third classroom is located in the Pioneer Home.  "We want to extend our hours to six hours per day.  That would mean hiring more people and hiring qualified individuals."

    Brian Holst, Executive Director of the Juneau Economic Council, said 70-percent of house holds have two wage earners.  That is the main reason for a need for child care.  Poverty is growing across the country and in Juneau.  In many of these families, the reason the second parent can't enter the work force is the lack of affordable child care.

    "The need is growing.  It's an education and a workforce issue.  The better we can start our kids off in school, the better they do in school and the better they can provide in the future."

    The society also demands higher skills among workers than ever before.  The cost of living is high.  In 80-percent of U.S. households, they need two salaries to make ends meet.

    Committee members asked could the state provide more funding for child care.


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