Because child-care needs differ dramatically across Idaho, local communities are the key to improvement efforts, Sen. Gordon Crow told lawmakers Tuesday.
Crow, R-Hayden, presented the House and Senate Health and Welfare committees with results from five North Idaho town hall meetings on child-care services held last fall. The meetings with child-care providers, parents and local leaders from the five northern-most counties highlighted the diverse needs of each community.
Parents in St. Maries, a town with many parents who work varying shifts at sawmills, pleaded for more child-care services during nontraditional hours.
Providers in Bonner County said they need more support in training and continuing education. And Crow said child-care providers in Boundary County seemed detached and unaware of the system’s kinks.
These varying shortcomings prove the need for local, not state, action, Crow said. However, he refused to free state lawmakers from responsibility.
“For us to sit up here in the Statehouse and make anything but minimum standards wouldn’t do any good,” he said. “Efforts need to come from the county or city level. But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that we can’t do anything.”
Michelle Britton, the state Department of Health and Welfare’s Region I director, said the discussions generated community interest in solving child-care service problems. Improvements in Idaho’s child-care system, which has one of the worst reputations in the nation, have to start at the local level, she said.
Working Mother magazine last year ranked Idaho’s commitment to day care among the nation’s worst in four areas - quality, safety, availability and state commitment. An Idaho Spokesman-Review report revealed last year that many day-care workers don’t bother getting the required FBI background checks. Meanwhile, parents wishing to explore a day-care center’s background have almost no access to complaints against day-care owners.
Other regions in the state should hold similar discussions to identify improvement efforts such as educating parents, training child-care providers and enforcing licensing standards, Britton said.