Childcare crisis | News, Sports, Jobs

Staff Photo by Clay Schult Turner Hall hosted a town hall meeting on Tuesday about the Rural Child Care Innovation Agenda and the group’s efforts to alleviate child care shortages children in the community.

NEW ULM – A special town hall meeting was held at Turner Hall on Tuesday to discuss the Rural Child Care Innovation Program.

The shortage of child care has been an ongoing issue across Minnesota for several years and has been cited as a top concern for New Ulm officials for more than five years.

Last October, community responders began working with members of First Children’s Finance to develop community-based solutions to the crisis. The Town Hall was held to present the results, solicit further community feedback and work on solutions.

Teri Steckelberg and Amber English from First Children’s Finance facilitated the town hall meeting and began by presenting data on the current crisis.

Based on available data, First Children’s Finance has determined that in the New Ulm School District there is a need for 184 potential child care spaces for children from birth to age five. Of these 184, approximately 59 locations were for infants and toddlers.

Staff photo by Clay Schult According to data collected by the organization First Children’s Finance, 184 child care spaces are needed in the New Ulm school district. Of these 184 slots, 59 are for infants and toddlers.

Steckelberg said New Ulm has an above-average number of children under 5 with both parents working. The state average is 76%, but in New Ulm it is 90%.

The unemployment rate in New Ulm is also below average. This means that most people in the community are in the labor force, which exacerbates the child care shortage.

The average length of service for a day care provider in Brown County is longer than the state average. On average, providers have served for 17.15 years and the state average is 13.8 years. Steckelberg said many Brown County suppliers have worked for more than 20 years, which means some are preparing to retire.

A survey question asked Brown County suppliers how long they planned to stay in business. About 39% plan to retire in the next three to five years, and 26% said they would leave the company within three years.

Steckelberg said that with more than half of providers planning to leave within the next five years, the community needed to look for a solution to recruit new providers.

Staff photo by Clay Schult Teri Steckelberg of First Children’s Finance summarizes her organization’s involvement with communities in developing childcare options.

The limited number of providers has already had an impact on families. Of those surveyed in Brown County, 53% said access to child care has impacted their family planning. A parent was quoted in the survey and said her pregnancy was planned based on childcare availability. Steckelberg said it was a common statement made in Minnesota communities.

Another issue was supplier compensation. English presented Brown County market rates for child care based on 2021 data. All data was presented at the 75th percentile, meaning 75% charged less than a certain price and 25 % charged more.

About 75% of centers charged less than $180 per week for an infant or an annual fee of $9,360. The remaining 25% charged more than $180 per week. A toddler cost $165 per week at the 75th percentile and $155 for preschoolers. A school-aged child at a center was $130 per week at the 75th percentile.

Home child care costs are lower, with 75% charging $150 or less for an infant and toddler. The 75th percentile of family child care centers charged $145 per week for preschoolers. Family daycares only charge a higher rate for school-aged children at $140 per week.

Later in the meeting, Brown County daycare manager Lisa Schmitz suggested providing training to providers on how to set fair rates.

“Local home child care providers aren’t worth the price, and people can take advantage of them,” said Schmitz. “We want to have reasonable rates for all of our families, but we want to make sure that our home child care providers are valued.”

Steckelberg agreed that this was a great form of training and said First Children’s Finance would be happy to provide this type of training.

“The hardest part is convincing these vendors of their value and that they should charge for that,” she says.

All data collected by First Children’s Finance to help Rural Child Care Innovation develop actionable goals to solve the child care crisis.

TOMORROW: Six goals presented at the town hall address the child care crisis.


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