The childcare issue in Redwood County is not going to go away.

Shortages continue, and solutions are needed to find long-term solutions that address challenges that exist.

That is what led Briana Mumme, Redwood County EDA coordinator, and Jessica Beyer, First Children’s Finance business development specialist, to host two meetings in Redwood County Jan. 10, with one held in Redwood Falls and a second in Wabasso.

The intent of the meeting was to provide information gathered from a gap analysis conducted by First Children’s Finance.

In the end, the analysis showed there are more than 200 children in the county who are in need of local licensed childcare and are not being served. 

In addition, said Mumme, approximately 60 percent of the current licensed childcare providers are at risk based on the fact that they are new to the industry or have been involved for more than 20 years.

In both cases, said Beyer, the chance for loss exists though those who opt to retire or who discover that childcare is not their thing for any number of reasons.

“People who offer childcare do it because they love kids,” said Beyer, adding they don’t see themselves as the CEO of a business and therefore face the challenges that come with the ins and outs of the economics, rules and regulations that come with the territory.

Redwood County was selected to work with First Children’s Finance through a pilot program that provided guidance and analysis in an effort to come up with solutions.

“This topic has been addressed before,” said Mumme, adding in 2016 an action plan was developed. From that plan three goals were identified as a way to increase the number of childcare slots in the county.

The goals included:

• Increasing awareness of the role of child care in building a strong community

• Providing financial incentives for expansion of current childcare businesses or development of new ones

• Supporting current childcare businesses with resources and opportunities

During the meetings held in both communities an opportunity was offered for those in attendance to get together in small groups to come up with ideas that might help move the goals forward.

Mumme said the discussion was very constructive, and she is excited about the possibilities that may come as a result of those ideas.

As an example, Mumme said someone suggested the idea that perhaps the business community and those involved in government need to recognize childcare is not something that will show a profit and can offer help to address that in some way.

Others suggested the idea of businesses collaborating to come up with solutions, such as working together in a common setting sharing some costs all the while still offering separate childcare programming based on their individualized licensing.

Mumme said another suggestion was about getting the word out to families at an earlier stage, such as through pre-natal classes to help them understand the issues and to get them looking early on to find the childcare they are going to need.

People at the meetings were also introduced to resources that are available in the county, including some that are new to the area.

One of the best outcomes for Mumme was the response she received from those in attendance who were interested in joining a task force to work on finding an answer to what is being called a childcare crisis.

“Twenty people signed up to be part of the task force,” said Mumme.

There is still time for others to join that group, said Mumme, adding she would like to hear from those who might be interested in the next couple of days.

Mumme encouraged childcare providers to join the task force adding she will schedule meetings for that group based on what is best for those involved. That, she added, could mean holding meetings after business hours to allow for those childcare providers who are interested in being involved to participate.

This past week, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced that $519,000 in additional funding has been added to the childcare grant program.

That program is designed to increase the supply of quality childcare providers in communities across the state.

“Access to good and affordable childcare is essential for all Minnesota families,” said Gov. Mark Dayton, adding that is especially challenging in rural Minnesota. “These grants will help hundreds more children receive the quality care they need, while allowing their parents to work and contribute to our state’s growing economy.”

A DEED report has shown this grant program is working, as it has helped to create more than 300 slots for children as well as more than 50 jobs statewide. It has also helped to retain 300 childcare slots in 2017.

One can learn more about the childcare grant program at www.mn.gov/deed.

Information from the meetings including the gap analysis is being posted on the Redwood County Web site, said Mumme. Find it at co.redwood.mn.us under the EDA link.

To find out more about getting involved, contact Mumme at (507) 637-1122, or via e-mail at briana_m@co.redwood.mn.us.