KeepHealthCare.ORG – Officials pursue avenues to deal with area’s child care shortage | Free
In Morrison County, there is a shortage of available child care spots for about 475 children. Landon McKay, a business development specialist with First Children’s Finance, an organization that works to develop child care across the state, said this is not just an issue for Little Falls or other small cities in Greater Minnesota.
“A large percent of Minnesota is actually a child care desert,” McKay said.
A child care desert is where the number of spaces available at child care providers in an area is not enough to cover all children needing a spot, McKay said.
These deserts can have radiuses of 15 to 30 miles, he said.
Little Falls City Administrator Jon Radermacher said this has an impact on the city’s economic development.
If there are not places to take care of their children, parents will not move to or work in Little Falls, Radermacher said.
“It’s going to be a struggle to recruit workforce for our community,” He said.
One of the problems is that with additional licensing requirements for workers in child care facilities, it is hard to pay workers a competitive rate while keeping fees for clients reasonable, Radermacher said.
Little Falls Community School District Supt. Steve Jones said increased regulations have placed additional burdens on home child care providers.
The city is pursuing options to assist providers looking to start businesses with help in construction, while a church in the city has expressed interest in leasing part of its facility to a provider.
The Little Falls Community School District has also started looking into the possibility of providing child care services, Jones said.
After listening to a presentation by First Children’s Finance about the shortage and concerns from businesses who are losing out on employees who can’t find child care providers in the area, Jones said he began considering the idea, even if it is something the district doesn’t really want to get into.
“If we didn’t have a need for day care, I would not be looking at this,” Jones said. “This isn’t the district trying to take someone’s livelihood away.”
Even if the district opened the facility, it would shut the program down if more private providers came to provide the service in Little Falls, he said.
“If all of a sudden, the day care need changes, we would back out in a heartbeat,” He said.
The district would also have to find a facility for child care, preferably one close to campus so students interested in getting a license to work as a child care assistant could use the day care as an experience to get their licenses.
At this time, the district has neither the land to build on nor space within existing buildings to use, Jones said.
Right now, the district is working to determine good options it could move forward with, Jones said.
The district’s goal would be to break even because in order to make money on the project, rates would be higher than is feasible, Jones said.
McKay said the First Children’s Finance organization is working with communities to realize the need is there and that everyone needs to work together to address the issue.
The organization also works to grow the amount of providers, while sustaining current providers, said McKay.