Child care

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An Early Child Care and Education Tillamook County Taskforce presented and provided recommendations concerning child care in Tillamook County in a Tillamook County Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday, July 29.

North Coast Region Coordinator Jennifer Purcell said Tillamook County is a child care desert, which is a county with more than three children for each regulated child care spot. Counties across the state have been identified as child care deserts.

“In August 2019, Commissioner Baertlein and I convened the first group of individuals to explore the issue in Tillamook County,” Purcell said.

Commissioner Bill Baertlein took on this work as a priority for Tillamook County. A lack of child care creates stress for communities. Purcell said the task force had a vision of increased access to quality child care.

“This was really a significant body of work,” Purcell said. “The group was incredibly thoughtful and collaborative.”

Emily Fanjoy, who co-chaired the task force with Megan Dean McKenna, said the task force’s recommendation is for the board of commissioners to form a permanent commission for early child care. They compared six regional programs with three local programs in Tillamook County.

“We picked these programs because they were similar to the county of Tillamook,” McKenna said. “We picked programs from Astoria, Bandon, Boardman, St. Helens, and others, and compared those to programs in Tillamook County.”

In reviewing these programs, they found that those with multi-sector investments had higher salaries and offered comprehensive benefits.

The task force distributed a survey in the beginning of March. The leading question asked how limited access to child care impacts employers in Tillamook County. 93 people responded to the survey.

The survey found that 75 percent of workers missed 1-5 days of work a month because of child care-related issues. Sixty percent of the people surveyed agreed this limited professional advancement. Seventy-four percent agree that it is difficult to find child care in Tillamook County.

Cost was the number one barrier preventing families from accessing child care. Fifty percent of those surveyed use more than one type of care. This results in high levels of stress.

McKenna said in the future, they would like to hear from single family households. The taskforce spent a year on the project.

The recommendation to the commissioners was to establish a Tillamook County Early Child Care and Education Commission.

Commissioner Mary Faith Bell said it is a significant loss to the workforce when parents have to leave it to care for children because of lack of child care. Baertlein said there is some formalized action they will have to take to set up the commission.

The next step will be drafting language for the Tillamook County Early Child Care and Education Commission. Purcell said as we move into the fall, they may want to look at child care a bit more broadly due to COVID-19. Commissioner David Yamamoto added that they should look at the older child population as well.

“We need to make sure we provide the proper environment for all children,” Yamamoto said.

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