The Betty Eliason Child Care Center is one of three licensed care providers in Sitka. Local demand exceeds supply and rates are high, nearing $1000 a month for children under three years old. (Photo courtesy of Betty Eliason)

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Working parents looking for childcare can find themselves without many options in Sitka. There are only three licensed care providers for children: the Betty Eliason Child Care Center, Sheldon Jackson Child Care Center, and Kids First Day Care, an at-home provider.

The shortage of licensed care providers and high cost of childcare is a problem in other communities in Alaska. Juneau lacks enough care options. This fall, the Juneau Assembly voted down a ballot measure to raise property tax revenue to expand childcare services.

As part of our series “The Cost of Living in Sitka,” we spoke with Erica Whipkey, the Board President of the Betty Eliason Child Care Center. Speaking with KCAW, Whipkey talked about the balancing act of keeping rates affordable while maintaining operations. Betty Eliason has a staff of fifteen individuals and provides care for 60 families. They are currently looking for volunteers.

Whipkey and her husband are active duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard and moved to Sitka last year. She was joined for this interview by her one-month old daughter Amelia. “I also have a two year old at home,” Whipkey said. “When we moved up here from the Lower 48 last summer, it was really shocking to our budget how much it cost to put a child in childcare. Under three is no less than $1000 a month per child.