Postcard: Childcare Awareness Fair launches search for solutions to childcare shortage in Sitka

The goal of the Sitka Health Summit is to turn priorities into action. Saturday’s Child Care Awareness Fair was a first step in developing a solution to Sitka’s critical child care shortage. (Sitka/Osborne Health Summit)

Like many other communities in the state, Sitka suffers from a shortage of child care services, on the brink of crisis. In September, the Sitka Health Summit Coalition identified child care as one of its two goals for the year, hoping to find a quick path to a solution. Last Saturday (10-22-22), the coalition hosted a Child Care Awareness Fair to bring resources, parents, providers and children together in one room and get the process started.

Coalition member Kari Sagel was present and sent this audio postcard.

Hello, my name is Joel Warner and I am a minister of the Church of Christ of Sitka. My wife and I are also starting a home daycare here in Sitka. It’s a process. I just wanted everyone to know that it’s hard, but I think the ultimate goal outweighs the hardship right now. Because our children are the future.

My name is Andrea Colvin, and we came today, because we have a 1.5 year old daughter, and it took a whole year on a waiting list to get child care. So this is something quite important for our community.

Sagel – So you are located now? Do you have childcare? What does this mean for your family?

Colvin – That means we pay a good chunk of change at one of the daycares in town. But we were extremely happy with the care we received. But yes, it took time.

Sagel – Rebecca Calvin, thank you for coming to the Child Care Awareness Fair, where you have a table.

Calvin – Thanks for having me. I am the main teacher at Wooch.ein (preschool) and I am here just to defend teaching positions and to be present here at the top.

Sagel – So did you have any difficulties this year filling the positions we choose?

Calvin – We have had some difficulty this year, we have our teacher assistant represented as our cook this year, and very few staffing requests have been received. So we have very little prospect of being able to reopen, which is really sad.

Sagel – What does this mean for Wooch.ein?

Calvin – This means that we have one classroom instead of two, that we cannot fully accept all the children we could accommodate in a classroom because we do not have adequate supervision.

Sagel – And in your opinion, what would lead people to apply for a position?

Calvin – Maybe a stipend to lure them in, maybe a discount on child care?

Sagel – Child care expenses are quite significant.

Calvin – They are.

My name is Erica Apathy and I am the director of the Betty Eliason Childcare Center. We see kids who, especially right now with the pandemic, haven’t been around a lot of other kids. So I really saw the value of kids, interacting with their peers, their age, playing with them, sitting down with them for lunch, having a snack, and having these social opportunities to interact with kids their age.

Sagel – Hi, I’m here with Jessica Christenson. Have you had any thoughts about childcare?

Christianson – I just think it’s really critical for us to remember that it’s not just a concern of a certain segment of the population, it’s only your concern if you have a child from birth to five years old, or it’s only your concern if your child is in elementary school, and you’re trying to find them activities or places to go after school. That it is truly a community-wide investment and interest. And that it’s in all of our interests, and that our solutions will come when we can all come together and think about how to find a new solution or how to redesign something that already exists to make it better and better.

Hello, Blue Schibler from the Southeast Alaska Early Childhood Education Association. I’m in Sitka today, enjoying the beautiful weather and helping to educate policy makers on the need for public investment in the child care sector. Similar advocacy efforts in Juneau resulted in the addition of $800,000 a year to the city budget for a program that directly subsidizes operating expenses for child care programs.

Sagel – I know some people have said child care is a broken economy. What does it mean?

Schibler – Well, that means child care as a business is out of market. Child care businesses cannot derive their sole source of revenue from parents in order to compete in a tight labor market or to compete in this economy at large. So it’s broken that way and it doesn’t fit the model of a traditional business in a free market economy.

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