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 adirondackfoundation.org/
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