Child Care in the North Dakota Oil Patch: A Community Responds

Williston, North Dakota is experiencing a child care crisis that affects the entire community. It’s a community challenge that requires a community response.

Shawn Wenko, Williston Economic Development, knows the issue first hand. The lack of child care is inhibiting business growth and the ability of fast growing industries to get and keep an expanding workforce.

In February 2012, Wenko invited First Children’s Finance to develop a solution-based plan to expand quality child care in Williston.

The charge from Economic Development to First Children’s was clear: how to increase the supply and availability of quality child care to meet the needs of Williston families and employers, and how to do that as quickly as possible. As Wenko put it, “We need to know how to get from A to B – we need solutions.”

First Children’s accepted the challenge. “We were excited about the opportunity to have a positive and sustainable impact on Williston’s children, and on the economic development of the entire region”, said Tez Gabriel, First Children’s Regional Director.

First Children’s began the community-wide planning by establishing a local planning team, led by leaders from Child Care Resource and Referral, Williston Economic Development, child care licensing and the faith community. Through a collective commitment to inclusive community engagement, over 70 Williston community members, from all walks of life and many sectors, shaped and informed the resulting solution-based plan.

The community’s vision for expanding child care is threefold: 1) all children will have access to high-quality child care and early education; 2) all parents will have a variety of options that meet their needs; and 3) area child care businesses will become viable and sustainable.

To accomplish this vision, the five-year plan sets out two “challenging yet do-able” goals. The first is to create 610 new child care spaces during the first year. The second is to sustain an annual 20% increase in child care spaces (120 spaces per year) for years two through five, resulting in a total of 1,090 new spaces.

Williston community leaders are committed to expanding child care to address the unique community and economic development challenges facing their community. The solution-based plan is a tool to help them meet that challenge.

Download the Williston Solution-Based Plan here.

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