Survey illuminates gaps in childcare
October 3, 2019
Local parents identified affordability and availability as the biggest challenges in securing childcare in Haines, according to a survey conducted last month by the Haines Economic Development Corporation.
Of 47 anonymous respondents, several called childcare a “huge issue.” One person said lack of available facilities has caused their peers to leave Haines. “I miss my job and my family misses my income, but I can’t work because of lack of childcare,” the person wrote. Others said that flexible jobs or reliable incomes are the only reasons they’re able to make it work.
HEDC last year named supporting the creation of childcare facilities in their five-year economic plan to keep young families in Haines as a long-term initiative.
There are two state certified child care centers in Haines and one federally established, state subsidized program.
Chilkat Valley Preschool currently serves 14 students and two teachers, and maintains a 7-to-1 student teacher ratio. Lead teacher Alissa Henry said that there was a wait list for enrollment this year, though that’s uncommon. For full-day care, four days a week, parents pay $550 a month, or $275 for half-day care.
That’s aligned with what the average Alaskan family spends monthly per child, or $7,000 a year, according to a 2015 study by McDowell Group.
Kids R Fun, a licensed in-home daycare run by Kim Larsen, currently has 10 children enrolled. Larsen is open Monday through Friday and charges $670 a month for full-day care for 3 to 5 year olds, and $375 a month for five-hour days. Fees include two meals and two snacks. Because she is licensed by the state, Larsen is able to accept low-income families that qualify for state subsidized care.
Head Start, state and federally funded preschool free for low-income families, is open five days a week from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. There are 17 students enrolled this year, though the cap is 20.
Most survey respondents said they rely on either informal child care, such as a family or a friend (27 people), or a stay-at-home parent. Fifteen respondents said they sent their children to Chilkat Valley Preschool; 10 to licensed in-home care, and eight to Head Start. Several people commented that they relied on a mix of several types of care to make it work.
“We’ve done it all,” one person wrote. “We’ve pieced it together, but it’s not easy.” Another person said they needed preschool, private babysitter and their grandparents to be able to keep a full-time job.
For after-school or summer child care, respondents said they mostly stayed home to accommodate their children, or relied on family and friends.
Twenty-six respondents said that lack of affordable or available child care restricted household employment within the last two years. Nine people said it’s caused them to take time off, and 12 said they’ve lost jobs because of it. Ten people said their employment was not affected at all.
“My husband and I both have maintained full-time jobs, but the lack of child care options/programs definitely affects productivity and requires flexibility from employers—which luckily we have had in spades,” one person wrote.
HEDC director Margaret Friedenauer said the survey is just the beginning of the organization’s work on child care. Next month, Friedenauer will present her board with a full report on the state of child care and early education in Haines.
“The survey points to there being business opportunity for private businesses in childcare and resources are needed to help with licensing childcare businesses,” she said. “As important, the survey also shows that access and availability to childcare is keeping some parents who would like to be working out of the work force, and that’s a big impact on the Haines economy.”