FARGO — Child care providers across the state face staffing shortages alongside an ever increasing demand.

Since opening in 1986, Kids Kingdom in Fargo has never before dealt with staffing issues. However, that has changed since the pandemic.

"Normally, I have about 10 on staff, and we're down to four," said Terryl Graalum, owner and director of Kids Kingdom. "It's very hard, because you want to keep the cost of child care down and not keep raising your prices, but you can't pay your staff more than what you're bringing in."

While the North Dakota Department of Human Services recently launched grants to help child care facilities, many will have to wait until next month for relief.

Facilities like Kids Kingdom will have to hold on, even as they have to turn away some children because they don't have enough staff to watch them.

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Graalum said that's in large part because of the child care hiring process, versus other jobs that can hire on the spot.

"'I'm competing with part-time jobs that people can just go out and get right away," Graalum said. "While with child care, you do have to get your CPR and your first aid (certification), you have to have your classes, and you have to have your full background check."

The staffing crunch is not only impacting small day cares — larger organizations are also feeling the strain.

"It's tough, when you have to tell a family at this time, 'We don't have a spot for your child in our program,'" said Kari Uzzle, the Learning Center business director for the YMCA of Cass Clay. "Definitely some tough conversations that we had to have. But we're working diligently every day to get more staff on and be able to get those families into our programs."

Providers interested in applying for grants to help their child care center should visit ndgrowfutures.org.