Bemidji Area Town Hall Meeting Identifies Local Child Care Issues
Earlier this year, Bemidji was chosen to be a part of the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, facilitated by First Children’s Finance. The program lasts 12 to 18 months and one of the first steps was initiated tonight. That was getting the community to come together to talk about issues surrounding child care.
“Community issues surrounding economic development and workforce are a concern so us supporting current businesses as well as attracting new businesses and new talent, young families to the area – it’s getting more difficult with some of these community issues that we’re having to face,” says Erin Echternach, co-lead for the rural child care innovation program Bemidji team.
Officials looked at numbers on how lack of child care is affecting the community. For example, many parents are putting off family planning and not having additional children. Also, for some parents, lack of child care is also affecting their work life.
“The workers that responded, 40% experienced being tardy. 42% weren’t able to work overtime. 55% of those that were surveyed were absent from work because of child care issues,” says Joan Bernston with First Children’s Finance. The numbers come from a recent survey conducted in the Bemidji area about child care needs.
On issues with child care providers, First Children’s Finance’s research discovered that in Bemidji, providers make less than the state average. Profits for running centers also don’t make up for costs, especially in infant care.
“How can we support an increase in infant slots when we know, we’ve done the analysis, we know it doesn’t cash flow. It’s a loss in every single center that I do an analysis for an for family providers, they don’t make money off of infants, either,” says Jessica Beyer with First Children’s Finance.
There’s also a lack of benefits for providers.
Bernston says, “There appears to be little respect for the child care profession. There’s no access to benefits for providers. Little flexibility for when a provider has family commitments.”
Facilitators noted that identifying the problems is only the first step. The next step will be finding solutions.
“It’s a problem now, but the problem is only going to get worse if we’re not able to help families find care when they need it,” says Bernston.