D’Anne Johnson, Head Start Director for Inter-County Community Council and member of the Advance TRF Childcare Collaborative, recently had the opportunity to interview Liz Gerhart with Pennington County Human Services. The following is excerpted from their conversation.
Johnson: I’m D’Anne Johnson, a member of the collaborative. Today I’m with Liz Gerhart, another member of the collaborative, who also works with the Pennington County Human Service Department and she’s in the childcare licensing division. Welcome to this episode of Profiles in Childcare. Liz, can you tell us a little bit about Pennington County Human Services and your role with the agency?
Gerhart: I am the supervisor within Human Services. I supervise Child Protection Mental Health Services intake and then of course also our licensing department. Human Services is an agency for community members within Pennington County. We offer services that range from children’s all the way through adulthood.
Johnson: Can you share with us a little bit about your background in childcare?
Gerhart: Initially, I started my employment with Pennington County as a licenser. I did that for about a year and a half. From there I transitioned to another role and currently I am the supervisor of the licensing department. I also have a personal background in childcare with my own children.
Johnson: Can you tell us about the need for childcare providers in the Pennington County area?
Gerhart: There’s a great need for childcare in our area, especially in the infant and toddler age categories. If anybody is interested, there are licensed groups that are specialized for infant and toddler areas, allowing them to hold more infants and toddlers within that license category. We don’t currently have any of those in our in our County, so there are some opportunities there.
Johnson: Can you tell us about the process to become a licensed childcare provider?
Gerhart: The first step to becoming a licensed provider is to complete an application. Once that is turned into our agency that will start the process. Some of the steps included in getting licensed are a background check, home inspections by our licensor (a minimum of two visits) and potentially a fire marshal inspection. You’re required to provide three letters of reference and comply with training requirements. Also, it’s important that you understand the rules and statutes that govern day care licensing as well. That process takes roughly three to six months depending on your situation.
Johnson: What are some of the challenges people face as they work through that process?
Gerhart: Some of the some of the challenges we identified as an agency include that background study process. There’s fingerprinting that’s involved in that and that whole process is run through the state, not our agency, so there could be some hold-ups with that process. Additionally, there is quite a bit of paperwork that’s required to be completed and then there are some startup costs, just like with any business. However, there are resources to assist new providers with licensing paperwork and finance.
Johnson: That’s awesome, because things the kids need to have, toys to play with, highchairs and cribs and things like that, all cost money. I have heard of providers that need to make minor modifications to their home in order to get a license, so it is great to hear there are resources to help with that. I am intrigued by the different licensure for more infants and toddlers, because I agree that is the biggest need in the community.
Johnson: My next question is how do you help providers preparing to be licensed or continuing their career as a childcare provider?
Gerhart: So, the licenser is going to help them every step of the way. They’re going to go through the requirements in depth with them to make sure that they understand what’s expected of them. They’re always there to answer questions or concerns that the applicant may have. Once the license is in place, the licensor will make annual visits to make sure that they’re compliant with licensing requirements and standards. Ultimately, we’re there to help support the license holder. We want our providers to succeed and so we do what we can to make that happen.
Johnson: If someone is interested in becoming a licensed provider, how can they reach you?
Gerhart: They can contact Human Services by phone at 218-681-2880.
Johnson: Thank you so much for sharing that information with us today. That’s Profiles in Childcare brought to you by the Advance TRF Childcare collaborative. Be sure to follow us on Facebook @AdvanceTRFchildcare and on YouTube, @AdvanceThiefRiver.
More About Profiles in Childcare
“Profiles in Childcare” is a series of stories, highlighting the people who are working in, and for, childcare in our region.
These stories are being collected and published by Advance TRF Childcare Collaborative.
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