Karen DeVos, the owner of Little Learners Center, Ada, Minnesota, struggles to find permanent staff for her child care center. It’s hard to find a workforce willing to work in this high-stress, demanding field. DeVos stated that while wages are competitive, it’s possible to find a job with a similar wage and not worry about having to take your job home.
DeVos was one of a number of child care advocates that spoke last week at a virtual gathering hosted by the Center for Rural Policy and Development. Child care professionals discussed the many challenges they face with their organizations and businesses, and asked for the help of elected officials and the general public.
Some child care providers were forced to shut down for several months in 2020 due to COVID-19. The state provided grants and money to assist providers, but advocates say it was not enough to keep them afloat.
According to child care providers, funding and staff shortages are key obstacles that must be addressed. The first three years of a child’s life are crucial for their development. Children learn social and cognitive skills that will be useful for the rest of the life. Child care providers can help them. Providers warn that the difficulties they face during these crucial years of child development can be a barrier.
Many panelists pointed out that child-care providers are essential to Minnesota’s economy. Without them, many Minnesotan workers would not be able work. According to child care providers, it is important that we understand these issues so that we can address them and restore Minnesota’s child care system.
span style=”font weight: 400 ;”>” We need to make this a priority. Stop talking about it, and get it done. Minnesota needs to stand strong and lead the way. We must make our children the priority of this state,” stated Sherry Tiegs from Morris, Minnesota, who is an in-home child caregiver.
5 challenges that child care providers in Minnesota face:
- Staff retention and staff shortages. Staff often leave because the work is too hard. Staff must also complete training and licensing to become qualified childcare providers. Many people are not interested in working as child care workers because of this.
- Under-enrollment. This is a problem especially for rural child care providers. Providers simply don’t have enough children to cover basic expenses. Chris Ismil works as a community developer for the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. He said that this is due to factors such as low population density and limited transportation resources in rural Minnesota. A significant drop in child-care enrollment has also occurred since the COVID-19 lockdown. Many parents are choosing to care for their children themselves, or work from home, and have decided not to send them back to child care providers.
- The state lacks additional funding. Gov. Tim Walz proposed that a portion of the surplus budget amounting to $9.25 billion be used to support child care providers. House Democrats and Senate Republicans could not agree on child care spending. This caused frustration among providers. “There is just a lack understanding about family child care. We are part the early childhood education profession. Sherry Tiegs, provider, stated that we support children’s development.
- Anticipation of COVID funding funds expiring. Karen DeVos, child care provider, expressed concern that her center might not be able pay its staff if it no longer receives COVID relief money. These federal funds are relied upon by many child care providers and will soon expire in 2024.
- Wage competitionspan styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>. Child care providers struggle to keep up with other workers as wages rise across the state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, child care workers saw a 31% median increase in their wages, while grocery store cashiers saw a 46% increase in their median wage from 2015-2021. This could result in fewer child care workers looking for work and can make it more difficult to retain them.
Learn more about the challenges child care providers face.
- Last week, the Center for Rural Policy and Development published a report that highlighted the challenges providers face.
- Amanda Schillinger, Director of Pumpkin Patch Childcare & Learning Centers in Burnsville , argued in a Community Voices piece published in March that child-care is driving middle class Minnesotans from the middle class.
- Walker Orenstein, MinnPost’s child care funding program , explained in this 2021 story by MinnPost how large and small providers were divided.
- This summer, some child care providers were disappointed to discover they were exempt from “heropay.”