Bemidji Area Joins “Rural Child Care Innovation Program”
Right now in the Bemidji area, we’re over 500 child care slot short of where we’d like to be, and that number is growing. That’s why the city is working hard to address the issue now.
“Beltrami County wanted to be at the forefront of child care initiative so we called together a bunch of community leaders to talk about this and kind of get this moving for a lot of reasons. For one, we are a large employer with many many young parents, and so it’s significant to us that those parents have dependable day care,” says Kay Mack, the Beltrami County Administrator.
Bemidji is joining forces with First Children’s Finance to become a part of their Rural Childcare Innovation Program.
Joan Berntson, a business development specialist with First Children’s Finance, says, “It’s a competitive process and Bemidji was one of the communities that was chosen in Minnesota this year. It’s an intensive program that lasts somewhere between 12 and 18 months.”
The program is meant to uncover problems the area and create solutions that will solve them.
“Every community is a little bit different. We do surveys with the communities to find out, what’s the true problem? What are the true needs around childcare in Bemidji?” says Bernston.
The program will now develop a core team of around 20 community leaders. This team will work around the clock to determine what will work in regards to child care in Bemidji.
Erin Echternach, assistant director of Greater Bemidji, says, “This child care initiative is bringing together businesses from large and small. Different philanthropy organizations, the Beltrami County Human Services, so that we’re all kind of working together to figure out how do we expand that child care base.”
Over the next year, the core team will host community events as a way to get other involved. When the time is over, they’ll figure what will be the next best steps to take.
“I would like to think that at next year we have not only increased the capacity for new day care providers, for day care centers, but that we’ve propped up our current providers. We’ve got some very very good current day care providers,” says Mack.
“And from an economic development standpoint, we need that. If we’re bringing business to the area, our companies are expanding. We want to make sure that our employees are taken care of with housing and childcare and those options,” adds Echternach.
The group is looking to schedule the first community event for tentatively sometime in March.