In 2015 the Southwest Initiative Foundation selected Redwood County to be part of a pilot program that would investigate a topic that was rising to the top for many in the region – the lack of childcare options.

Several meetings were held and ideas were discussed in conjunction with an entity known as First Children’s Finance, but as time went on the process came to a halt. While the discussion stopped, the issue of childcare needs only grew.

So, when Briana Mumme came on as the director of the Redwood County EDA she once again started moving the wheels. To that end, the Redwood County EDA and First Children’s Finance have scheduled a community childcare forum and discussion event that is set to take place Jan. 10.

According to Mumme, two meetings are going to be held that Wednesday, including one in Redwood Falls at the First Presbyterian Church at 12 p.m. 

A second meeting is being held in Wabasso at the public school beginning at 6 p.m. Registration for both meetings begins half an hour before the start of the discussion, and each is set to last about an hour and a half.

As part of the presentation, which will be made by Jessica Beyer of First Children’s Finance, information from a childcare gap analysis is going to be offered. The analysis, which Mumme said was conducted countywide, gathered data by zip code and determined the number of children from birth to age five who are not being served by a licensed childcare provider.

Mumme said the number shows there are more than 200 children in that category in Redwood County. Seeing that number prompted Mumme to start working as quickly as possible to set up times for discussion in the county to help determine solutions to this growing issue.

“The same issue that was discussed at previous meetings still exists,” said Mumme, adding it seems to be getting even worse. “I really feel that there is a need to revitalize the discussions that were happening to see what can be done.”

Mumme said there are currently 44 licensed childcare providers in the county, and of that number 30 percent have less than five years of experience as providers and another 30 percent have more than 20 years of experience.

Trends show it is in both of those areas where the number of providers also drops off, as retirements start to happen and others find out that being in the childcare business really was not for them.

The bottom line, said Mumme, is there is a need to find ways to help support existing licensed childcare providers, as well as to add more.

“In 2017 we had seven licensed childcare providers close,” said Mumme, adding only four new providers started up in 2017.

While there are others in the process of becoming licensed, the reality is that the demand is far outpacing the growth which is taking place.

Mumme is hoping community and business leaders attend one of the Jan. 10 discussions, adding she encourages everyone who has any kind of interest in this issue to show up and share ideas.

“We will provide childcare during the meetings,” said Mumme, adding those who would like to register for childcare during the meetings need to do so by Jan. 8.

To register for the childcare service, send an e-mail to Mumme at briana_m@co.redwood.mn.us.

“The presentation will be the same at both meetings,” said Mumme.

As Mumme continues to learn more about the growing childcare issue in rural areas she has also learned there is no cookie cutter solution for every community.

“Every community has its own unique challenges,” said Mumme.

That, she added, also means the solutions that work in one place may not work everywhere.

“I am hoping we draw in passionate people who bring ideas and who are willing to work to implement those ideas as we continue to move this issue forward,” said Mumme.

Refreshments will be served during both meetings.