Plain Talk: ‘We’re drowning out here’ says child care provider frustrated by an inept state bureaucracy


MINOT, N.D. — You’ve heard just about every elected official in the state talk about it. Access to child care, and as importantly, access to child care that’s affordable, is a real problem in North Dakota. So much so that it’s contributing mightily, to our critical workforce shortages.

People who can’t find a place to send their kids during the day, or who can’t afford it, can’t go to work.

But Robin Nelson, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Red River Valley, which provides child care services to some 700 families, says the state is making it difficult for them to operate.

“We’re drowning out here,” she said on this episode of Plain Talk.

She says that an online licensing portal to make the hiring process for child care workers easier has, in fact, made things more difficult because the system “continues to crash” when they try to upload documents. “We are receiving late fees because we’re missing deadlines,” Nelson says.

Background checks for those same workers are also a problem. Nelson says there are “major backlogs,” particularly in the area of fingerprinting. She says it can take up to three weeks for a prospective hire to get an appointment to have their fingerprints taken, and even once they’re sent in, Nelson says state workers have told her that it might take 11 business days for them to even begin to process them.

All told, Nelson says it can take as long as 4 to 6 weeks to get a child care worker licensed and ready to work, which is an eternity, all the more so when you consider we’re talking about workers taking jobs at what are, quite frankly, entry-level wages. How many of them can afford to wait for a month and a half before they can begin working and collecting a paycheck? Especially when there are so many other job opportunities available?

Also on this episode, my co-host Ben Hanson and I discuss my story about the familial connections between a freshman state lawmaker and a racist church in Missouri, as well as some bills that are advancing to hopefully address North Dakota’s workforce shortages.

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