Issue of Child Care Accessibility Growing, Especially in Rural Minnesota

November 01, 2017 09:39 PM

It's a dilemma many Minnesota parents face - trying to find affordable child care. 

The problem is especially prevalent in rural Minnesota, where the number of providers has dropped significantly in the past few years.

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It's gotten so bad that both providers and families are calling this a "crisis." Providers say the cost to start a day care - either in-home or center-based - is expensive with lots of rules and regulations to follow. 

Many providers can only afford to pay workers minimal wages, making it hard to attract and retain qualified workers. 

And yet many providers feel they can't raise rates because parents can't afford to pay more. 

Hollee Saville has devoted her life to young kids, and it's clear her kids love being at Happee Hollee's Preschool in St. Michael. 

But she's seeing the change in her industry.

"The only thing that hasn't changed is my love for kids," she said.

Saville is one of roughly 8,500 licensed family child care providers in the state, down from 12,000 in 2011. 

While regulation is an issue, the Center for Rural Policy and Development said until more can be done to increase wages and profits for providers, the shortage will only continue.

"I've had families call me in tears, and I know I am not the only one, (to) say I've called 30 providers and nobody has an opening," Saville recalls.


The problem of child care accessibility is growing in greater Minnesota to the point where both providers and families say it's becoming a crisis. There is a growing gap between the number of children that need child care and the number of spaces available at both child care centers and in-home providers. 

What solutions would you like to see lawmakers work on to tackle the child care crisis in Minnesota? Share your thoughts with lawmakers:


State senators heard about these issues in a committee hearing Wednesday. The owner of the only licensed day care center in Norman County said she turns away five to 10 families each week because she has no openings. 

Karen DeVos, owner of Little Learners Day Care Center in Ada, said she has no infant openings until at least 2020. Some couples are booking spots before they even get pregnant. Others are turning to unlicensed providers, family or friends to take care of their children.

Or they are foregoing child care altogether. 

There are some ideas being tried. Some school districts and cities are opening their own centers to provide infant, toddler and preschool care. Other providers are partnering with private businesses and nonprofits to open centers. 

Providers said they hope lawmakers will take their concerns seriously and address these issues in the upcoming legislative session.

"We have been shouting from the rooftops for years saying this is happening," Saville said. "We are losing providers - we are losing two providers a day.  If things don't change for the better, there won't be many family childcare providers left." 
 

Credits

Amanda Theisen and Jessica Miles

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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