Idaho Business Review

Giraffe Laugh’s waiting list grows as parents search for affordable care

By: Benton Alexander Smith November 13, 2015

The low-cost Treasure Valley child care provider Giraffe Laugh opened a fourth center in September, allowing it to clear 75 positions from its long waiting list.

The new center, at 3641 Market Place Lane, is the company’s largest, but even with the new building, Giraffe Laugh still has more than 500 children on its list.

The company can’t get ahead of the demand because the area lacks affordable quality child centers, said Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.

“Quality comes at a cost. Having a good teacher-to-child ratio, making sure your child gets nutritious snacks and isn’t just watching TV all day; that all costs money,” Oppenheimer said. “It’s a vicious circle so we have programs like the YMCA and Giraffe Laugh that have assistance to help families cover the cost.”

The average cost of child care in the Treasure Valley is between $500 and $800 a month, and few centers can afford to offer assistance, said Idaho Stars child care resource specialist Amanda Mills.

To help families afford its care, Giraffe Laugh breaks its clients into four income-based groups. The higher-income clients don’t receive any aid, and the lowest-income can have their cost reduced by 60 percent to 80 percent. Under extreme circumstances, a family can receive free care for a short period of time.

“We have families who are homeless,” Giraffe Laugh executive director Lori Fascilla said. “How do you look for a job if you don’t have childcare and how do you get childcare if you don’t have money?”

The cost of attending Giraffe Laugh ranges from $300 to $800 depending on the age of the child and the time of day they are cared for. The cost of attendance pays for breakfast, lunch and a snack and for extracurricular activities such as zoo trips and ballet classes with Idaho Ballet.

All Giraffe Laugh attendees can participate in the activities.

“We help out wherever we can,” Fascilla said. “We have a food pantry where parents can take something home for the night or the weekend. We also have a diaper storage where we store toiletries, paper towels and bowls. The kinds of things food stamps can’t purchase.”