Being a licensed child care provider is never easy, but Debbie Dufault says she has no regrets about her career choice

    The Times visited with longtime licensed child care provider Debbie Dufault, who lives with her husband, Jeff, on Crookston’s north end, to talk about the challenges and rewards of her career, and the pressures of the severe child care shortage in the community.

    In addition, the Times emailed Debbie a half-dozen questions seeking her insights on several topics under the child care umbrella.

    The Q & A appears here:

    Times: Can you first provide some background info on your child care operation, i.e. how long you've been in it, how many kids you care for, their age range, etc.

    Dufault: I’ve been in childcare for a total of 23 years. The children I care for generally range from infants through pre-K.  I will have, on occasion, some school age children during the summer.  As a rule, my children “graduate” from my childcare once they enter kindergarten. Once Washington School started their after school and summer care program, this was an easy decision for me.  Currently, I have 10 full-time children. I am licensed for up to 14 with a helper and 12 without...depending on the age groups.

Times: Comparing when you first started your child care business to today, are there more regulations in place, and have they become increasingly strict?

    Dufault:  Oh boy...definitely more regulations...and with that comes stricter monitoring procedures. I do my best to always comply and understand as well as support what is necessary for the safety of the children in my care. It’s not always easy, especially with all the newer infant regs. One example, as I mentioned today (during a visit with the Times in her backyard), if an infant falls asleep in a baby swing, your arms or the floor...they must be moved as soon as possible to their crib. That was not the case before. As long as the baby was not left unattended, we were not required to move them.  

Times: If you were first considering becoming a child care provider today, do you think the regulations would make you think twice?

    Dufault: That’s hard to say since I wouldn’t realize how much stricter the rules and regs have become, nor how much extra paperwork is involved with that. In saying that, I went into childcare for two main reasons...I love kids and I love my kids. When my third child was born I couldn’t leave her to go back to the outside the home workforce, so this ended up being my solution to that. I believe it would still hold true today even with the complications that come with that.

Times: Is there one rule/law/regulation that you think is especially unnecessary? If so, could you explain why?

    Dufault: I can’t say I see any rules or regs that are totally unnecessary.  I know the intent behind them. It is, however, hard not to feel overwhelmed and confused from time to time...no matter how long you’ve been in the business.

Times: Do the demands for your services ebb and flow? Like, do you have a waiting list that grows, shrinks, or disappears? How often are you contacted by parents looking for a child care provider for their child or children?

    Dufault: Most definitely! Years ago, I remember having only four full time children and two part time. It was great for going on field trips, but not feasible for my business.  Now, I have an infant waiting list and receive calls weekly if not more. I have even received a call from a lady saying her and her husband were thinking about having a baby. That was a first for me in 23 years! I often get calls from just pregnant moms where their immediate family doesn’t even know yet.  Parents are very much aware of the shortage and are doing their best to be proactive.

Times: If my memory is correct, years ago you were a child care provider, then you left the business to try another career opportunity, and later you returned to your home-based child care operation. If you were approached by someone who was thinking about becoming a provider but was hesitant, what would you tell that person? How rewarding is the work? How challenging is it?

    Dufault: I guess I would say if you love kids and have children of your own that you’d like to stay home with while making a decent living...it was a great fit for me and may be for you. It doesn’t come without stress or complications and definitely is not for the faint of heart. Kids are awesome, but they are tough to figure out too. What works for one child, may not for the next...but, that also makes it interesting and rewarding when you can meet the needs of so many different children and make a difference for them and the parents whom you serve. I would also encourage them not to make the decision based on all the rules and regulations that can overwhelm them. Our county licensor is there to help get you through all of that and we have a great local daycare association that keeps us up to date on required trainings and is a great resource full of well educated providers.