Tuesday, June 4News That Matters

Alaska Task Force Completes First Report on Child Care Crisis

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“Southcentral Foundation’s Working Wet Child Care Center is a nationally recognized model for early care and education. Bright Beginnings has always been committed to providing high-quality child care and supporting a higher quality of life for Alaska’s families. Since then, Elders, parents, and clinic partners have been involved in creating learning paths, using curriculum, and offering supportive environments and even more opportunities for parents to engage in the program.

“Many child care providers in Southcentral Foundation’s Working Wet Child Care Center have had to make difficult decisions to consolidate resources, scaling back their operations due to the workforce challenges they face. According to Heather DeLoach, corporate finance manager at Bright Beginnings, “We couldn’t hire and retain enough quality people in order to enroll enough children to break even.” This has meant that many families are struggling to find affordable, quality child care options for their young children.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has recognized the issue and stood up a task force to address it. Department of Health Commissioner Heidi Hedberg has indicated that they are working on a number of changes to improve the child care landscape in Alaska, and the task force aims to release its recommendations to the governor at the end of this month. Their focus is on reducing barriers to licensing and background checks to strengthen the workforce.

A McKinley Group study from October found that Alaska child care workers earn an average of $29,500 per year or $14.18 per hour. This, combined with soaring costs of living in Alaska, has resulted in significant challenges for child care providers and families. The need for assistance comes as providers close their doors and costs soar. This legislative session, the Alaska Legislature approved $7.5 million to boost child care workers’ wages.

There are other local initiatives underway as well, such as Juneau’s program to subsidize licensed child care providers and Anchorage’s plan to use city marijuana tax revenue for early childhood education. However, many agree that substantial new investment at both the state and local level is essential in order to address the crisis in Alaska’s child care sector.”

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