NMF Working to Address the Region’s Child Care Needs

By December 4, 2017 December 23rd, 2021 No Comments

Ensuring families have access to quality child care is a high priority task for NMF.

Our region has the third largest deficit for child care needs in the state. We are faced with 41% of families not having access to child care spots for their children. This means 41% of families are struggling to find safe and affordable child care for their children so they can go to work.

The Center for Rural Policy and Development recently published a fact sheet that provides insight on this issue. The main barriers that they pointed out were the following:

  • Until more can be done to increase wages and/or profits for both center and family providers, the child care shortage will continue
  • Low pay for workforce makes recruitment and retention a major hurdle.
  • Providers feel they can’t raise rates because parents can’t afford to pay more. Under this scenario, providers can’t make a profit or be sustainable.
  • The high startup costs make for very high barriers to entry for the average provider.
  • The vast array of regulations needed to start a child care business are difficult to find, read through and understand, and there is little help, say providers and those who work for them.
NMF is committed to collaborating with communities to finding solutions to this issue. We are lucky to have on staff Missy Okeson, program specialist for early childhood and youth. Missy has been in the early childhood field for 24 years and knows first hand how difficult it is for child care providers to sustain a business that keeps rates affordable for families. Missy, along with our VP of Programs, Karen White, have been on the road to meet with residents and community leaders face to face to discuss how to move forward to find solutions.

Karen White, VP of programs, Northwest Minnesota Foundation.
Photo courtesy of the Bemidji Pioneer.

“It’s not just a family issue or a parent issue, and it’s not just a provider issue. It’s a community issue, and it has ripple effects,” Karen was quoted in an article from the Bemidji Pioneer. On Monday, October 16th, the Blackduck Area Coalition for Child Care held a public meeting at Blackduck High School. Prior to the meeting, a survey was sent out to the public to gather input from residents about their experience with finding and securing child care. The following information was reported by the Bemidji Pioneer: 

“Most of our issues seem to be that people don’t want to pay for daycare,” Blackduck child-care provider Jenna Freeman said. “Almost all of us have an opening, and people don’t want to pay for it.”

That sentiment was mirrored, to some degree, in the survey results. Respondents were asked to identify barriers that exist for people needing childcare in Blackduck. The highest number of respondents, 48, said there were not enough childcare options. The next highest number of respondents, 37, said the cost of childcare was too high.

Roseau County Town Hall Meeting 11/28/2017

NMF partnered with First Children’s Finance and Roseau County to host a town hall meeting at the Roseau City Center on Tuesday, November 28th. It was a great night of brainstorming by child care providers, parents, business leaders from across the county, including Marvin Windows and Doors, LifeCare Medical Center and Polaris Industries, as well as Senator Mark Johnson. 

First Children’s Finance informed the participants of the data gathered by the Roseau County “core team” regarding the child care crisis in Roseau County. Several ideas came from the brainstorming, and a follow-up implementation meeting will be held on January 4th to start the work towards making these ideas come to life.

There is no easy fix or overnight solution to the child care disparity in our region. We know there is a long road ahead, but with the communities’ help, and with collaboration with city and state leaders, we can better support families and child care providers.

If you’d like to get involved with this effort, contact Missy Okeson, NMF program specialist for early childhood and youth, via email or by calling 218-759-2057.