This week, the Bend Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are hosting a series of meetings around Central Oregon as they look for ways to solve the region’s child care shortage.
On Wednesday representatives were in Madras, Prineville and Redmond. On Friday, meetings will be held in Bend and La Pine.
The child care shortage is a nationwide problem, but Deschutes County is being referred to as a child care “desert,” with only one spot available for every three children under the age of 5.
The meetings are being held to find solutions for employers and employees dealing with child care shortages. Last year, the Bend Chamber conducted a survey on child care and its effects on business owners and employees. Nearly three-quarters of employees say dealing with the child care shortage has been very difficult.
Because of the shortage, some parents are unable to find child care, and even resort to quitting their jobs to become a stay-at-home parent.
Katy Brooks, CEO of the Bend Chamber, says for some working people, finding day care for their child is not an option.
“Oftentimes, it looks like it could be a year or year and a half wait list when you have a new child in your family,” Brooks said. “So that puts you in the position of either having to leave your job or make you very creative in how you handle your child care.”
The shortages can be attributed to many issues, but one in particular can be the new background checks that went into effect earlier this year. In 2014, President Obama signed the Child Care and Development Block Grant measure. This year, the grants took effect, calling for more background checks.
The Early Learning Division Office of Child Care in Oregon said it may take up to eight weeks to complete a background check for job applicants from out of state.
Ruth Crawmer of Bend Preschool said the new background check process can take too long, especially for out-of-state candidates.
“People that have worked in child care in Arizona or Washington, and you think, ‘Oh that’s great — they have already passed a background check and they already have their experience and their degree,’ but you can’t just bring them in on a two weeks notice,” Crawmer said.
“So you have to be hiring well before there is a two weeks notice given by an employee to be able to meet these deadlines, or classes have to close because you don’t have a teacher.”
The Early Learning Division reported that they have approved more than 20,000 child care worker applicants. About 2,000 were denied and about 500 withdrew their applications.
The U.S. Chamber Foundation is funding a statewide study on the economic impact of the lack of child care. Results of that study will be published in 2020.