By Crystal Thompson
Lori Evans, Director of the District IV HRDC Child Care Link in Havre says that there is an urgent need for licensed and registered child care providers who provide evening and weekend care.
Many parents in the community have jobs which require them to work varying shifts, or to work on the evenings and weekends, Evans said. Unfortunately, most local child care facilities do not provide service during these hours. This can be a major crisis for families with these types of jobs.
Evans said that out of the 48 registered or licensed child care programs in Hill, Blaine, and Liberty county, that only seven provide care in the evenings and four provide weekend care. As of July, Child Care Link has had 41 families request evening care, and 38 families request weekend care through their referral services. "The demands exceed the current availability," Evans said.
According to Evans, new state regulations which require eight hours of training per year for all registered and licensed day care providers, has caused some local providers to go out of business. "It's causing a little bit of a flutter," Evans said. The new regulations also require First Aid and CPR training for all providers, and many are having difficulties adjusting to the changes in the requirements. "Sometimes change causes discomfort," Evans said.
The lack of qualified child care providers in the area who provide weekend and evening care has an affect on the employment rate as well, said Evans. Families who can not find suitable arrangements for their children have a difficult time holding a job. "It reflects bad on the person when they don't show up for work because they don't have someone to watch their children," said Evans. Some employers don't consider this to be a serious problem, but according to Evans, she's seen it happen a lot. "It isn't a smokescreen," said Evans, "it's a real problem."
Evans encourages anyone considering becoming a day care provider to contact Child Care Link for more information. Child Care Link offers new provider orientation, training, and numerous resources. They also offer families a chance to connect with potential providers in the area. Child Care Link keeps a database of provider information, which is accessible to any parent seeking child care. "It's a huge time-saver for parents," said Evans, "it really narrows the search for them." Child Care Link does not recommend any daycare over another, it simply offers families a list of providers who potentially meet their needs.
Because Montana Law states that anyone providing child care to three or more children on regular basis is required to be registered or licensed unless they are established primarily for educational purposes, it can be difficult to find qualified providers who meet families' needs. Evans said that it's important to note that just because providers are registered or licensed, doesn't necessarily mean that they provide quality care. Evans encourages parents to thoroughly check out their provider before enrolling their children in a program.
Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a licensed or registered provider, or for parents seeking information about providers in the area, contact Lori Evans at Child Care Link at 265-6743. To report a problem with a local registered or licensed provider contact Pamela Filler, Child Care Licensor at 262-9790.