Child Care Legislative Panel Discusses Shortage
The Beltrami County Board room was filled with concerned community members and daycare providers as they joined state legislatures in an open forum tonight in Bemidji. The panel was organized by the Bemidji Area Child Care Innovation Program, who’ve been gathering feedback from child care providers on legislation that’d want to see changed.
“We’ve been leading this effort since January with a team of 30 throughout the Greater Bemidji area to address the needs we have in child care; obviously there’s a need for child care slots, we want to know how our legislative representatives can support those needs in rural Minnesota, and especially looking at Greater Bemidji,” said Greater Bemidji Assistant Director Erin Echternach.
Senator Paul Utke, Representative John Persell and Representative Matt Grossell heard from numerous day care providers. The informal panel gave providers the opportunity to talk about their ideas they’d want to see done legislatively. Some of the ideas being presented deal with community solutions.
“A lot of those solutions are around supporting our current providers that are here and trying to bolster that network of providers, so that we add more providers to our network. However, some of the rules and regulations that are in placed in Minnesota make that really difficult because the start-up costs are expensive to build centers – it’s not cost efficient here, especially with the demographic that we have in Beltrami County,” Echternach said.
Other issues discussed included current laws in Minnesota that determines how someone can be licensed and how many children they can care for.
Currently in Beltrami County, there are 97 licensed child care providers. The biggest challenge that day care providers face is the infant slots.
“We have some providers quitting, we have some providers that quit after one or two years. So the goal is, as a core team is to come together and try to help with providers that we can retain them and we can also get more into the career,” Local Daycare Provider Jeri Francis said.
Four proposals were presented during the Panel. Proposal one was to raise the C3 License with two adults to 14. Proposal two was to provide allowance for optional forms of daycare, dropping the preschool age by six months and to start a pilot program for Subsidy to infant care.
There’s currently 226 infant slots and a current shortage of 747 child care slots in the Bemidji School District Area.