Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Adirondack communities: Working families face challenges

The child care landscape is “bombed out and pitted,” said Jamie Basiliere, executive director of the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, speaking to Adam Federman for an article that ran in the Adirondack Explorer earlier this year.

That same story found that virtually every corner of the region has been impacted by the shortage of providers. Across all seven North Country counties, 86 percent of census tracts, which roughly accord with towns and villages, qualify as child care deserts where the number of young children exceeds the system’s capacity. According to a report from the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, there are on average nearly six children for every child care slot in a regulated facility. In Franklin County, for example, there are 2,405 children ages birth to 5, but only 1,602 openings in child care programs. Since July 2019, a staggering 28 programs have closed.

Parents are forced to  rely on friends and family, if they have that luxury, or to use providers who may not be certified. Many families also struggle with basic needs such as food security, safe affordable housing, transportation, and emotional and physical wellbeing. 

Meanwhile, the needs of families are growing. JoAnne Caswell, Executive Director of Families First in Essex County, said the number of families seeking services has increased dramatically  in recent years. When the cap on the number of kids who could take part in a home and  community-based services program was lifted last year as result of the Affordable Care Act,  enrollment jumped from 24 to over 100 in just a few months.  

Many communities in the region also have limited access to affordable healthy food.  Residents in Indian Lake, whose only grocery store closed about a decade ago, for example,  may have to drive 30 minutes or an hour to do their shopping. Even WIC benefits, which can  be used at grocery stores and most farmers’ markets, are under-utilized in the region due to  lack of options.  

In our next installment, we’ll look at organizations that are working to address the problems that working families face.

The Adirondack Explorer/Adirondack Almanack is partnering with Adirondack Foundation to shine a light on unmet needs in the region as well as highlight promising efforts to address them. This special series was inspired by the Foundation’s 2019 report “Meeting the Needs of Adirondack Communities.”  To learn more, visit

Over the next few weeks we’ll be diving into the following topics:

  • Support for Working Families
  • Expanding Affordable Housing and Rental Options
  • Increasing Opportunities for Professional Skills Development  and Workforce Training
  • Improving Transportation Networks
  • Providing Options for Drug Addiction Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention
  • Developing Support Networks for an Aging Population
  • Creating Pathways to Post Secondary Education

Photo at top: Almanack file photo

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Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.

4 Responses

  1. Vanessa says:

    Just coming by to leave an appreciative comment on a good article. Thank you for posting!

  2. Joan Grabe says:

    Portland, Oregon will provide free early childhood education for all 3 and 4 year olds in that city and more importantly raise the salary of early childhood educators to the pay level of kindergarten teachers. I know that any of our North Country school districts lack the tax resources of a major American city as Portland but it would be an admirable goal for this area to consider after we get Covid under control. Jamie Basiliere does an incredible job in the face of shrinking resources and the Adirondack Foundation has made it’s Birth to 3 coalition a major community emphasis but much needs to be done and there are many other “deserts” in the North Country such as broadband and food.

  3. Jill says:

    Thanks for bringing attention to an important issue many ADK residents face!

  4. jeep says:

    You didn’t mention the average cost of child care! In many cases Parents are much better off being on Public Assistance. A single Parent of 3, On welfare, utilizing all benefits is worth well over 40K in income. You figure an average say walmart employee is maybe 25K, or 30K? Now subtract child car for 3!.

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