The First Children’s Finance have chosen the city of Roseau to participate in their Rural Child Care Innovation Program. The Rural Child Care Innovation Program is a community engagement process designed to address the challenges of child care in rural America. Close to 20 applications statewide were submitted and Roseau was among the four communities in to be selected.

The program is based on the fundamental idea that rural communities are greater than their size in numbers and greater than their current challenges. Where some might see desolate swaths of land and dwindling populations, the Rural Child Care Innovation Program sees opportunity for innovation and renewal.  By mobilizing and empowering rural communities, the landscape of early care and education is changing in rural America.

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation (NMF) is leading the project. In these rural, remote communities there are critically few Child Care Centers. Only 5% of the capacity is from Child Care Centers, 95% are from Family Based Care. This significantly limits the options available to parents/employees and exacerbates the capacity issues. Also contributing to the child care shortage in Roseau is the fact that many parents work in Roseau but live in other communities. This puts an increased strain on the number of child care slots available in Roseau and the surrounding area (Roseau School District Boundaries).

Missy Okeson, NMF Program Specialist, said “In the Roseau area the lack of quality affordable child care is having a negative impact on the available work force. Lack of quality affordable child care service options has led to the creation of gap services that are patch worked together mostly consisting of in-home daycare providers.” Currently, the Roseau area has 24 licensed child care providers and zero child care centers.

To help find a realistic child care solution, NMF included community leaders from the Roseau area to join the Rural Child Care Innovation Program Core Team. Team members include Todd Peterson from the City of Roseau, Kristy McFarlane from LifeCare Medical Center, Katie Gunderson from Child Care Aware, Diane Murphy from Polaris, Lynn Balstad from NWCA Head Start, Kelsey Burger from Roseau School, and Brenda Huglen from Brenda’s Coffee. Missy Okeson and Karen White from NMF will also serve on the Core Team.

The Rural Child Care Innovation Program is a community engagement process designed to develop right-sized solutions to address the needs of child care and early education for communities selected to participate. Over an 18-month period, chosen communities will increase the focus on opportunities and challenges they are facing with child care. First Children’s Finance helps facilitate the conversation and provides expertise, tools and resources to support the creation and implementation of solutions to address child care shortages in rural communities. There are also potential grant monies available at the completion of this process to help communities implement the solutions.

The Core Team will hold their first training session in mid-June. Additional information will be released as the program developments. For more information please contact Missy Okeson at 218-759-2057 or missyo@nwmf.org.