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‘Puzzled:’ In-home child care operators struggle to fill slots; NeighborImpact says accessibility, ‘stigma’ are key issues

(Update: adding video, comments from child care provider and NeighborImpact)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Many parents in Central Oregon say they have been struggling to find ample child care, resulting in a consensus that that the region, like many other areas of the state and country, is a "child care desert."

But some local in-home child care providers disagree, saying they are open, have slots available and are welcoming kids. They argue that parents are not being connected to the right resources, and there's plenty to go around.

Traditional child care centers are often the primary option for parents. Many providers in Central Oregon offer the same care out of their homes, but unfortunately, they’re struggling to fill their slots.

"There are people right now that need child care," Michelle Werner, the owner of Rainbow's End Child Care, said Monday. "They can't wait for a center to open. And with so many providers struggling to keep their doors open, you know - we just don't want to be forced to close."

Werner has owned her day are since 2005. She can take up to 10 children at a time, but since September, only four spots have been filled.  

"It hasn't been this sparse since the recession," she said. "And I had very little spots filled back then - and now I'm in the same position."

"We're all kind of puzzled," she said,

Werner says she knows other in-home day care owners who have had to close.

"They have to sell their home and move because they need to, you know - it's just, they're not making it in this area."

Brittany Seale, the intake and outreach specialist with NeighborImpact, said, "I think there's definitely been a stigma that in-home providers are not early childhood educators. And here at NeighborImpact, we try to really help in-home providers provide quality early childhood education."

"When we say 'child care desert,' we are not referring to that there's a lack of child care providers," Seale said. "We're saying there's a lack of accessibility to child care." 

Seale explains that despite more than 250 providers in Central Oregon, accessibility has to do with the needs of each family, based on finances and logistics.

"I can't say definitively what is the disconnect between families that need care and providers who have spots open, but I know there are resources out there," she said.

Find Child Care Oregon is one resource that provides parents a customized referral list of provider who meets their needs. Parents can also call 2-1-1, which can provide a list of child care referrals in the area. 

Werner said, "It's an easy solution to a problem that's going on in the community. Local home day care providers are welcoming all the children we can get. We want to help out."

Article Topic Follows: Central Oregon

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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