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Teton County, Wyo., Looks At Childcare Costs

Teton County, Wyo, commissioners are using a new Childcare Assessment to determine how to spend $2.5 million left over from its 2006 Day Care Center SPET initiative.

County voters approved a $6 million Special Purpose Excise Tax in 2005. Of it, $3.5 million was spent on Phase 1 of a Teton County Daycare Center in Rafter J. But, due to dramatic economic changes following the recession, the county found the second phase of that project was no longer feasible.

The report was prepared by Susan Eriksen-Meier Consulting, LLC.

The biggest need identified in a 2005 study was providing enough childcare capacity for the community, which was then nearly fully employed. The 2012 assessment finds that in the few existing childcare programs that offer deeply subsidized care to the children of the unemployed and underemployed, there is 100 percent enrollment and long waiting lists.

A new Childcare Needs Assessment indicates the number of children younger than 5 exceeds licensed child care capacity in the community. According to latest census statistics, Teton County is home to 1,283 children younger than 5 years old.

It’s estimated more than 400 children are in some kind of unlicensed situation. The report also suggests that rates and schedules are not compatible with workforce trends, especially for those looking for work or piecing together multiple part-time jobs.

According to the report, hundreds of children need care their families cannot afford or at times that are inconsistent with existing service schedules. It finds the community need is for services to support stressed, low-income families and relief for those seeking work or who are under-employed.

The study recommends three options: remodeling of existing space to improve efficiency; additional classroom space for Head Start and Early Start; and developing nonclassroom space to increase the efficient use of existing subsidy programs and introducing services for children who will never attend a licensed program.

Teton County Administrator Steve Foster says the new assessment will be one of the many tools the board will use to find how to best meet the public’s needs.

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