Tackling the child care crisis at all levels

Last May U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar sat inside the conference room of the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce office building and listened to community stakeholders share child care issues during a roundtable discussion.

Chamber President Brad Gruhot said child care used to be a cost issue, but he now told the senator “it’s also an availability” issue.

“Right now, a lot of directors and in-home providers are going to tell you the joy is being taken out of the business,” Kari Condezo also told the senator. Condezo is director of the Southwest Minnesota State University Child Care Center. “A lot of in-home providers are quitting because it’s getting pushed to the regulations.”

Condezo also revealed she sees a decline in availability for child care and the waiting lists are long at all the centers. Condezo’s remarks are supported in a study conducted by the Center of Rural Policy and Development which reported Greater Minnesota lost more than 15,000 child care spots between 2006-2015. The report claims the decline is due to significant decline in in-home providers.

Meanwhile, child care has also been discussed at local county commission and city council meetings for past couple years.

Minnesota Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, and Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne held a town hall meeting in September and child care providers shared their frustrations.

It was at that meeting that Condezo pleaded with the lawmakers to do more than talk about the child care issues. She asked them to go to work.

“Minnesota is an innovative state. Be innovative,” she said.

Maybe state lawmakers heard her plea because they are finally putting the wheels in motion to address child care issues.

Two bills dealing with child care issues were introduced at the Legislature Monday. The bills authored by Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, and Rep. Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter, both create and fund new grant programs with the shared goal of increasing child care capacity while fostering successful and sustainable child care business operations in Greater Minnesota.

Nicole Griensewic Mickelson, executive director of the Region Nine Development Commission and president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership, hailed the bills as “a promising start to bringing more child care options to Greater Minnesota and helping providers run successful businesses,” she said.

Continue reading the Marshall Independent article.