CBJ reviewing HEARTS child care program

The City and Borough of Juneau is considering a program that could increase the quality and availability of child care in the community.

The lack of child care in Juneau is notorious, says JEDC’s Meilani Schijvens.

“There’s a joke here in Juneau that if you wait until you think you might be pregnant you’re probably too late to sign up for child care, if you want an infant spot,” Schijvens quips. “You need to sign up when you think you might be in love.”

A recent study by the Juneau Economic Development Council indicates about half of children under age six in Juneau are in unknown child care situations. That means they are either cared for by parents splitting shifts or by unlicensed providers.

The turnover rate among licensed child care providers in the capital city is nearly 20 percent higher than the state average.

According to JEDC, the pay is so low that qualified child care providers quickly move on to other jobs for better wages and benefits.

The Association for Education for Young Children, or AEYC, has posed a solution, called the HEARTS program.

It stands for hiring, educating and retaining teaching staff. The program is similar to others around the country, which offer incentives for child care providers so they can earn credentials in early childhood education, increase their earnings and stay in the business.

AEYC’s Nikki Morris says the HEARTS program would award each licensed child care provider more per hour based on their level of education.

“They can see that as they increase their training there is compensation that goes along with that,” Morris says.

The HEARTS program also would offer providers incentives to stay in business by helping to offset costs like first aid and CPR certifications. It would waive some fees and taxes for licensed child care providers.

AEYC Executive Director Joy Lyon says the incentive program would result in better child care options in Juneau as well as provide working parents with the assurance that their young children have a quality day-care experience.

The HEARTS program will be reviewed by the CBJ Assembly Finance Committee. It would cost the CBJ just over $143,000 a year. Click here for the HEARTS Initiaitve.