Focus on what the city needs - more daycare

Louise Oleson Journal Managing Editor
Rachel Lindstrom

What are the most pressing needs in Devils Lake and the surrounding Lake Region?

That’s a question many answer in various ways but all would agree one of the most pressing needs of the community at large is for daycare.

Although, according to a recent report from Job Services of N.D., there are something like 200 to 300 jobs open in the surrounding area, finding people to fill those openings continues to be a challenge.

Affordable and available housing had been an issue. That’s beginning to ease, now, according to Rachel Lindstrom from Forward Devils Lake as throughout the city investors have stepped up and met the housing need. Several family-friendly units have been constructed, some more affordable than others, and most recently three newly constructed units were completed in the south end of the former Movie Gallery building on Sixth Avenue NE.

There are jobs available in the region and, now, there is more and affordable housing available, so what’s next?


According to Lindstrom, jobs and housing might bring young families to consider the community, but having daycare available will keep them here.

She should know, she’s a mom, herself.

Recently a committee has been formed to address this pressing need. It is comprised of Allison Driessen from Early Explorers Head Start and Early Head Start, Roxanne Wells from Fort Totten Head Start, Rhonda Allery from Lakes Social Services, Paula Vistad from the Chamber, Terry Johnston from the City of Devils Lake, Jody Pike - who licenses professional daycare providers, Lindstrom and Tim Greene from Altru Clinic.

Their hope is to find a practical way to meet the need for daycare in this community.

“We’ve had to start looking outside the box,” Lindstrom said.

What may be a partial solution is looking at one day re-opening the Devils Lake Kids daycare that now sits empty at 115 5th Ave. NE. The business has been closed several months after repeated attempts to establish a successful daycare on site.

The building is owned by the City of Devils Lake. That entity would certainly like to see it occupied and housing a successful concern of some sort. It is already set up to be a daycare, with tiny little toilets in the bathrooms and a fenced-in play area. Presently the city heats the building to keep pipes from freezing and the structure from deteriorating.

If a daycare were to be started again in that location, it is Lindstrom’s conclusion that it would need to be run  like a business, which hasn’t always been the case. She and other committee members have been studying other communities and how their daycare businesses are run successfully.

She told the Journal that one community seeing great success in their daycare is Watford City. The city’s mayor is on the board for the daycare and they run a “very tight ship.”

The committee is working on a proposal to bring to the Devils Lake City Commission, perhaps by the first meeting in April, that would include a business plan for a new kind of daycare in Devils Lake, as they “think outside the box” coming up with creative and innovative solutions for this important service to the community.

One of the creative solutions is to also approach the Ramsey County Commission and perhaps create a partnership of sponsoring entities through both the city and county.

There remains a great deal of work to do, yet, on the plan, but if it works out, the employees of the new daycare might be city employees with wages and a benefit package that might encourage daycare workers to stay in the job longer. That, also, has been one of the problems in the industry, retention of trained workers, Lindstrom says. Low wages and few, if any, benefits made it difficult to keep workers. Much time and investment goes into constantly training new workers.

It’s a problem for corporations here in the Devils Lake area, recruiting and keeping employees when there isn’t enough daycare available in the community. Lindstrom envisions that maybe corporate investment in a daycare business would hold a certain number of spots available for that corporation or business’s employees. Say, for example, a business wanted four or five slots at the daycare to remain open for their employees to utilize, that is a possibility.

Tim Greene, who manages Altru Clinic in Devils Lake said that’s why he got involved in the committee. “Daycare is such a huge problem in this community and I would hate to lose employees because they can’t find adequate and available daycare when they need it.”

Greene adds that they are looking at the situation and trying to determine the best solution for their employees.

Karissa Olson from Heartland Care Center told the Journal recently that they created their own in-house daycare facility because they saw the need and importance of it for their employees.

Most everyone agrees there is a problem and a need, that has led to this new vision that is developing.

Things would have to change, however, in the day-to-day operation of the daycare but the committee sees what is possible and is working toward a solution that would benefit everyone concerned and the community as a whole. It will take time and creativity but Lindstrom is convinced this could be a real asset to Devils Lake however it becomes a reality.