Stories in this Regional News Roundup are excerpted from weekly newspapers from around the region.

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Alisha Scott spends her weekdays providing child care for her three children and a friend’s three children at her home because she can’t find a child care center.

Scott, 39, was a child care provider at the Kidz Cove Childcare and Learning Center in Donnelly. But the center closed unexpectedly after losing its lease in October 2020, abruptly ending services for 35 children.

There are between 200 to 300 children in the region in need of child care, and the number could be even higher, according to the estimates from the West Central Mountains Economic Development Council.

The shortage for children younger than 5 has led to strains on families, social systems and employers, as well as the children, a survey by the council said.

Child care providers that participated in the survey said they had 292 spaces for children younger than 5, said Darcie Lacroix, who was hired as the council’s Early Childhood Program expansion manager in April.

“With our current labor market and the increasing cost of child care, we can safely assume there are several parents who are out of the workforce to take care of their children,” Lacroix said.

Caught in a cycle

Parents seem to be caught in a cycle where they cannot find or afford child care. In those cases, Lacroix said, both parents continue to work to the point it influences decisions on how many children to have.

Lacroix also heads the council’s Early Learning Advisory Committee, which has set the goal of increasing day care center capacity by 135 children in five years.

The council hopes to find locations in McCall, Donnelly, Cascade and New Meadows and promote the sites to people seeking to start child care businesses.

The survey was funded by a grant received last year from the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.

The council compared demographic figures from the Idaho Department of Labor and surveys sent to child care providers and parents of enrolled children.

The survey found less than half of children younger than 5 were enrolled in a child care center. The same percentage of people said they had experienced “hardship or lost income from lack of child care resources.”

About 35 percent of the 61 respondents were generally not satisfied with their child care options, 36 percent were generally satisfied and 29 percent were somewhere in between, the study said.

Nearly all parents who responded preferred an early childhood education center to a day care.

Early childhood education includes curriculum to prepare children for schools, where day cares are focused on offering a safe environment for children.

The survey focused on determining child care needs in general. It did not ask parents if they were able to move home to work or whether they had already been working at home because of COVID-19, Lacroix said.

Help For Providers

The council hopes to provide aid for people interested in starting child care businesses.

That aid includes a professional development program for child care workers, employee hiring standards, startup kits for in-home providers and access to funding and training options.

Melanie Curry, who operated Kidz Cove, has been searching for another location without success.

“It was heartbreaking to have to close. I knew how many people depended on it, and it was just a really hard deal,” Curry said. “I would love to be able to provide care again. I just have no idea where.”

The McCall Daycare Center closed in August 2019. The center enrolled from 35 to 50 children each day and served more than 350 families, former owner Carrie Klinge said.

The business closed because the building that housed the center was sold, Klinge said. She also said it was difficult to find employees.

Existing centers cannot recruit more staffers because of the high cost of housing, said Kaleigh Morley, who owns the Little Sprouts Daycare in McCall.

“Most people seem to struggle with housing and being able to afford to live in McCall in general, so that really affects the potential hires,” Morley said. “We have had quite a few people relocate due to housing shortages.”

Little Sprouts provides child care for more than 60 families and has a waiting list.

Other day cares and child care services in Valley County surveyed by The Star-News are either full or geared toward child care for employees.

Cascade Community Church Kingdom Kids Preschool-Daycare in Cascade is open to the public but is full with about 14 children per day and a waiting list.

Roots Forest Service in McCall is fully enrolled, with 48 children in their classes for ages 3 through 5 and a waiting list of more than 10 for the coming year.

Roots would like to serve more children and families in the region, but is at capacity at its facility in Ponderosa State Park, Director of Operations Maura Goldstein said.

Creative Cubs Daycare Center in McCall can enroll up to 30 children and is at capacity. The center is also owned by the Payette National Forest, which requires that 50 percent or more of attending families must be employed by the Forest Service.

Tamarack Resort provides free child care for employees and offers spaces to the public if there is room, said President Scott Turlington. The center can enroll up to 30 children.

Brundage Mountain Resort offers day care to visitors and staff at a discount, but the center will not run this summer because of a lack of employee demand, General Manager Ken Rider said.

The resort offered day care last summer and winter, with a maximum capacity of 25 children, Rider said.

But Brundage has seen little success in the past during the summer because of the long drive to the resort, he said.

Kendra Brown, an accountant, couldn’t find an affordable day care for her three children after Kidz Cove closed.

Brown now pays Scott to look after her children, ages 4, 3 and 1, along with Scott’s children, ages 9, 5 and 2.

Either she or her husband would have had to quit their jobs if Scott were not available, Brown said.

Her husband, Colt Brown, is a farmer in the summer and works as a ski instructor and does snow removal in the winter.

“If there were more options for child care and more affordable prices, then I feel that more parents would be able to work and still afford to live,” she said.

— Max Silverson, The Star-News (McCall), Thursday

Surgeon signs letter of intent to practice

GRANGEVILLE — “This is pretty exciting news,” Syringa Hospital board chairwoman Leta Strauss said at the May 24 board meeting.

Strauss was reacting to the announcement that surgeon Dr. Jesse Enderson signed a letter of intent to practice surgery at Syringa.

CEO Abner King explained the Georgia surgeon is looking to start in August, if all goes as planned.

“She hasn’t signed a contract yet, but she’s looking that over now,” King said.

Trustee Laura Smith had several questions on the surgeon and what her scope of practice will entail.

“We want her to be able to keep up on all her skills,” by using them in surrounding areas as necessary, King explained.

“I’m excited she wants to come here, as she was also looking into several other options,” he said.

In other news, Dr. Danny Griffis will be leaving Syringa, as will Dr. Tema Jessup.

“Dr. Griffis is moving his family to Alaska and is very excited about this new adventure. We do not have an exact last day, but it will be sometime in September,” explained Michelle Schaeffer, director of clinics.

“This is Dr. Jessup’s first place of practice after residency. We have been very blessed to have her for so many years. She has decided to continue her care on the Camas Prairie as an employee of St. Mary’s Hospital, and her last day here is Aug. 31,” Schaeffer said. “We wish both of these providers the very best.”

— Lorie Palmer, Idaho County Free Press (Grangeville), Wednesday