LANL Seeks Expressions Of Interest In Establishment Of A Childcare Operation In Los Alamos To Address Childcare Issues Faced By Staff


Childcare services for Los Alamos National Laboratory staff and other working parents in the community has been a challenge for quite some time. At LANL, some 68 percent of staff with 0-5 years at LANL who are moving on to work elsewhere have cited the childcare challenge as one of their reasons for doing so.

The Los Alamos Reporter sat down Thursday afternoon with LANL Staff Director Frances Chadwick and LANL Community Partnerships Director Kathy Keith to discuss how the Lab is working to collaborate with existing childcare providers in the community to improve the situation.

Chadwick said the Lab’s efforts around childcare are very much driven by a need to augment the childcare services already available.

“We absolutely don’t want to push anyone out of business or replace anyone who’s there because that would be against our best interests. What we are hearing from our employees is that there is a dire need for more childcare and so we would very much like to see all the current providers continue and be successful but it is apparent to us that there is not enough,” she said.

Chadwick said Kathy Keith had worked in September with Grown Up New Mexico to develop a childcare survey for LANL staff.

“We got about 1,000 responses and of those, only 22 percent said they had the childcare they need. Of those about 200 said they were actively looking right there and then for childcare. We had an earlier panel discussion back in late spring early summer which our Women’s Employee Resource Group had posted and it was very much the same message then,” Chadwick said.

Concurrent with the survey, LANL hosted a visit with some of the regents from the University of California and after their visit there was a lot of talk about the amount of hiring going on and how the Lab demographics are changing.

She said the University of California had asked LANL if UC was to build, renovate or otherwise provide a high-quality childcare facility there would be interest by some entity in running it. The UC regents have since granted $500,000 for an initial planning allocation and LANL has been talking with a developer.

“We have a potential location and they are very interested in working with us,” Chadwick said.

She said Keith had worked with Los Alamos County to set up a meeting with the local childcare providers and that about a dozen providers had been in attendance.

“I showed them the survey and told them about this potential investment opportunity from the University of California, which certainly feels to me like a business opportunity for the community,” Chadwick said. “One thing I do want to be clear about is the Lab is not going to run the daycare. For one thing it is not in our contract. We do not receive appropriations that allow us to do that and it is certainly not our area of expertise. We have expertise at other things but childcare is not one of them.”

She said what LANL would really like to do is partner with one of the  entities that already exist who may be looking to expand their business, so that essentially a facility could be provided and the entity would operate the childcare facility on behalf of UC.

“UC doesn’t want to be running a childcare, so we’re acting as somewhat of an intermediary trying to match up an investment opportunity with a community provider that has the expertise, desire, know-how and drive,” Chadwick said.

With all this in mind, LANL last week issued a request for expression of interest which included the following requirements for interested entities:

  • Provide services at market-competitive rates;
  • Operate five days a week;
  • Offer childcare for children ages 12 weeks to 12 years with a primary mission of serving infants and toddlers;
  • Offer childcare from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., or as close as possible to these hours;
  • Establish and facilitate a parent advisory board;
  • Be adequately insured for the childcare operations, and include as additional insureds in its liability policies Triad or any of its partner entities providing financial support to the center; and
  • Be able to begin operations shortly after the facility receives all approvals to operate, anticipate in summer 2023.

“It’s a very straightforward document. Basically we’re looking for a partner and asking the organizations to tell us if they’re interested and tell us a little about their organization and any background and experience they have in doing this,” Keith said.

Chadwick said LANL felt the request for expressions of interest was the fairest way to find an entity to operate the facility.

“We have some deliverables articulated in the document which also lays out at least what our sense of the need is and what kind of things the organization would need to be able to do. We have extended the deadline to Nov. 30 because with the Thanksgiving holiday people might need some more time,” she said.

Chadwick said the letter to local media from existing daycare businesses gave the impression that the Lab would be opening the daycare facility and stressed that that is not the case – the University of California is. She said it wasn’t clear if the letter was representative of all of the providers. (See more at

She added that there was agreement on some issues raised at the meeting with the current providers.

“One was the difficulty of increasing infant care offerings. They explained how it’s very hard to make money off of infant care because of the ratio requirements. The other area was the extended hours. One of the new things that’s evolving at the Lab is how we’ve moved to shift work in some areas – TA-55 being a prime example and certainly what we heard from the parents at TA-55 is that there is no daycare that accommodates their shifts. So if you don’t have a family situation that allows you to work there, you might as well say that the job is not available to those people,” Chadwick said.

Having daycare close to the Lab is important, Chadwick said so that parents can pick them up if they are sick for example.

“Having quality childcare is such an important for enabling women to feel like they can be successful in the workplace. Speaking for myself, I always found it really difficult to drop my kid off somewhere. Having a place where people feel comfortable and confident leaving their children allows them to focus when they’re at work and hopefully be able to have a work/life balance which I think many of us want to have. It’s really hard being a working mother, being a working parent and I think anything we can do to help is good,” she said.

LANL will be announcing some changes to benefits that become effective in January.

“One of them that I advocated very strongly for is that we are going to double our paid maternity leave. Right now you get six weeks of fully-paid maternity leave and that’s going to double to 12 weeks plus four weeks of parental leave that either parent or both parents can take,” Chadwick said.

Asked if the proposed facility would accommodate the general public, Chadwick said those details have not yet been worked out.

LANL Director Thom Mason also discussed childcare during a virtual League of Women Voters event Thursday evening. He said one consequence of the hiring of new people at LANL is that is has changed the demographics quite a bit with 6,000 employees under the age of 45 – double what it was in 2015.

“That’s tremendously exciting actually to have a lot of younger people, recent college graduates joining the Lab and of course many of them are at a stage in their life where childcare is one of their top concerns,” Mason said.

He noted that with the 24/7 plutonium pit manufacturing mission at LANL where people are on shifts like people at TA-55 are, there’s a definite gap in terms of childcare needs.

“When we conduct exit interviews due to the increased attrition rate of our early career staff – 68 percent of the increased attrition of staff with 0-5 years’ experience, childcare was one of the cited reasons why people are feeling that they need to look for work elsewhere” Mason said. “We are very interested in having more slots for Laboratory employees to have their children taken care of in a high-quality environment at market-competitive rates.”

Mason said he knows there has been a little bit of concern expressed that LANL is going to try and drive people out of business.

“I can assure you that is not the objective of this. We need more childcare slots, not fewer. So if somehow we were to do something that caused someone to go out of business, we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s really about growing the capacity to meet this very substantial need that was identified in the survey of our staff,” he said.

All statements of interest/qualifications should be submitted via email to no later than November 30, 2022. For more information and a copy of the request for expression of interest email the same address of call Kathy Keith, (505) 629-5577.