Growing Child Care in Oil Country

This report identifies the challenges facing childcare in Dunn, McKenzie, Mercer, Mountrail, Stark, Ward, and Williams Counties. It is identifies strategies for delivering quality childcare.

Dunn, McKenzie, Mercer, Mountrail, Stark, Ward and Williams Counties


  • The child care supply in Dunn, McKenzie, Mercer, Mountrail, Stark, Ward and Williams Counties averages 22% of demand. Industry standards recommend the child care supply meet 50% of demand

  • To move the supply to 50%, the seven counties must collectively add 4,667 spaces over the next three years or, in very concrete terms, must add 37 centers with each center caring for 125 children

  • Given the immediacy of the need and the magnitude of the shortage, capacity building efforts should focus on developing larger child care programs able to accommodate 18 or more children (licensed for group or center). Recruiting and supporting in-home child care remains an important capacity-building strategy in both urban and rural communities. However, investing in renovation and building of larger programs builds capacity

  • Because child care businesses have limited cash flow to devote to loan repayments, few prospective child care owners can secure financing for large child care facilities. Addressing the severe shortage requires deep-subsidy funding (80-90% of building or renovation costs)

  • Current child care centers face room closures due to staff shortages. Since January 2012…

    • Three Minot centers have each closed one room (preschool)

    • One Minot center closed three rooms (one infant and two toddler)

    • Two Williston centers each phasing out an infant room

    • Stanley center closed one preschool room

  • Staff shortages stem from low pay. Most child care staff earn minimum or slightly above minimum wage and receive no benefits

  • A final challenge will be building an understanding that, although a business, child care serves the greater good as a local and state infrastructure that supports economic growth, communities and working parents and provides an educational setting that helps children learn. Left to its own devices, the child care industry does not have the financial capacity to respond to the growing child care demand. Not addressing the shortage of child care lessens ND’s quality of life and ability to grow economically and, if children experience less than adequate care, decreases our children’s ability to thrive in school and life.

Developing and delivering quality child care requires three major components: facilities, a workforce and on-going provider supports

  1. Facilities that accommodate the daily needs of children, reduce children’s hyperactivity and boredom, and diminish staff fatigue and irritability

  2. A workforce that understands child development and management of children in group settings and that commits to on-going early childhood professional development

  3. Supports to assist providers in delivering quality care and achieving high quality program ratings. On-going supports and ratings protect funding investments and enhance positive outcomes for children

To move the child care supply in oil country to 50%, consider the following strategies:

  1. To launch immediate development, make deep financial investments in child care

  2. Build business support and investment in child care

  3. Identify child care as a priority in housing finance programs by linking community development with child care investments

Strategy 1: To launch immediate development, make deep financial investments in child care

  • Develop an emergency child care grant program to provide immediate and deep funding (80%-90%) for child care expansion, renovation and construction in counties of high need
  • Establish quality standards and accountability ratings as grant requirements
  • Make available resources to support quality programming
  • To recruit and retain an adequate supply of child care staff, establish a wage incentive program that links wages with continued training and education

Strategy 2: Build business support and investment in child care

  • Establish a child care growth fund to support future capacity-building and quality efforts. Fund awards would be supported and advised by the private sector.
  • Establish tax credits that reward private investment in child care facilities
  • Offer technical assistance for employers, particularly small rural businesses, to identify cost-efficient child care solutions for their employees

Strategy 3: Identify child care as a priority in housing finance programs by linking community development with child care investments

  • Provide incentives for developers to incorporate facilities for child care in their housing development plans.
  • Provide an advantage in the competition for low-income housing housing funds to developers who incorporate child care in their proposed multi-family housing projects.
  • Incorporate family child care homes in new and rehabilitated housing developments. E.g. In housing development, include a select number of homes for a family child care provider that consists of an open floor plan on the first floor and a second story for bedrooms. Target the homes for priority sale to a licensed family child care provider who meets the project's income guidelines. Require provider home owners to receive on-going training and on-site technical assistance.
  • Encourage housing developers to include child care centers in large projects. Provide technical assistance to developers to assist them in cutting the development cost of the child care center by incorporating the center’s financing and development into the financing of the housing project and/or negotiating with contractors to donate a percentage of their contract profits to the child care center.
  • Assist architects in successfully designing early childhood facilities by providing technical assistance and information on best practices.