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Commission says more day care providers needed, but Grand Forks better off than other cities

Infant day care is the greatest child care need in Grand Forks, according to discussion at the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Social Infrastructure meeting Thursday.

Grand Forks’ overall need for child care is not as dire as most parts of North Dakota, with Grand Forks meeting about 40 to 44 percent of the population of children potentially needing child care, with the industry’s ideal target at 50 percent, according to data provided by consultants Praxis Strategy Group at the meeting.

“Overall, Grand Forks is not in as desperate of shape as some other areas of the state,” said Bret Weber, City Council member and co-chairman of the Blue Ribbon commission, after hearing Praxis’ presentation. “Two or three new centers would take care of the shortfall here.”

But Dawnita Nilles, child care licensor for Grand Forks County Social Services, said that it’s still a dire issue for individuals in need of child care, because local child care providers’ waiting lists are between a year and 18 months, and those people have to find other options while waiting. Nilles was a guest expert at the commission’s meeting.

“Infant care is by and large the biggest issue,” she said, often because it costs more for care providers to take care of infants, and there are more regulations regarding infant care.

One solution to the local child care shortage that the commission discussed was making residents and child care providers more aware of existing resources.

For example, people seeking child care should connect with Child Care Aware, which for the Red River Valley is located in Moorhead and can be found online at The group helps families find child care openings, including those with specific needs, such as a day care that doesn’t have a pet if a child is allergic.

Another example discussed was Score, a free business consulting service that could help someone wanting to become a child care provider start a business.

State Rep. Curt Kreun, R-Grand Forks, who was a child care provider for 14 years and a guest at the commission meeting, added that anyone wanting to start a day care should visit Social Services to get help with the regulations.

These resources for helping people start child care service are important, Kreun said, adding that the city of Grand Forks has some tax incentives for child care facilities, and the state has grants that those providers can apply for.

Several other ideas on the topic were discussed, and the full meeting can be viewed at

At its next meeting, the Blue Ribbon commission will be discussing poverty and workforce issues in Grand Forks, and the commission plans to revisit child care in the future.

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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