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Child Care Solutions


Child Care Shortage in Central Minnesota

The Initiative Foundation is pleased to announce a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and First Children’s Finance to help surface innovative solutions to the shortage of quality, affordable child care in Central Minnesota.
It's estimated that anywhere from 15,400 to more than 17,000 Central Minnesota children and their families lack child care opportunities, which inhibits development and school readiness. Equally important, said Don Hickman, vice president for community and workforce development at the Initiative Foundation, “is that many families are disengaged from the workforce because they can’t find quality, affordable care at a time when most employers in the region are urgently looking for skilled workers.”
The reasons for this challenge are varied, but include:
  • Low-densityrural communities sometimes lack the number of children needed to help a child care provider generate enough revenue to make their operation profitable
  • In nearly all communities, the relatively low wages and lack of benefits discourage new workers from entering the child care field
  • Many older providers are retiring or switching to better paying jobs.
  • In communities where the major employers require long or overnight shifts, few providers are able to offer 24-hour services.
  • Some school districts have provided in-house toddler and older child care, leaving home-based providers to cover infants and very small children. The unintended consequence is that long-time providers often are forced to exit the child care sector.

COVID-19 Pandemic Changes Our Course—and Our Actions

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our social and economic landscapes. However, the importance of strong child care solutions remains evident: In early April 2020, in response to the onset of the pandemic, the Initiative Foundation was able to award $150,500 to 110 providers serving children of essential workers. We received nearly 800 applications requesting nearly $2 million in support in the days after the opportunity was announced. The need expressed for these services continues to represent a bottleneck to our recovery even as we search for our new normal.

As communities begin to plan their recovery, child care providers will continue to be an essential sector necessary to help workers return to their jobs.

About the Child Care Solutions Program 

The Initiative Foundation’s Child Care Solutions program offers a three-step process to respond to the shortage:
  1. Professional staff from First Children’s Finance help convene local stakeholders to identify core assets and barriers to expanding quality, affordable child care in each community
  2. Based on the inventory of assets, each community develops primary strategies to expand existing child care or support new providers
  3. Upon completion of the strategic plan, each community is awarded a grant of $10,000 to implement its identified strategies. Please note: The $10,000 grant requires a local match—contributions from local employers, a local economic development authority, or other partners willing to help explore more financially sustainable child care models. In addition, communities that participate in the program will receive priority consideration if the Initiative Foundation secures additional resources.
In addition to strategic planning, First Children’s Finance staff can provide business planning, technical assistance and gap lending to help new or existing providers provide the highest quality program while also generating positive revenue. We also partner with staff at Child Care Aware to help providers gain quality ratings that leverage scholarships so that income-eligible families also have access to quality care.

When appropriate, the Initiative Foundation partners with the Latino Economic Development Corporation, Leech Lake Financial Services and the African Development Corporation to provide culturally appropriate financial products and to confirm that language or culture is not a barrier to professionals interested in joining or expanding the child care sector. 

2019 Child Care Solutions Program Outcomes

Using funding from a grant administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, four communities/counties were selected in 2019: Greater St.Cloud, Todd County (including Long Prairie, Clarissa, and Staples-Motley), Morrison County (Little Falls) and Kanabec County. 
  • St. Cloud: The St. Cloud effort has focused on securing donations from local businesses; providing training to help child care professionals gain credentials and earn better wages; and encouraging unlicensed providers to consider opening home-based child care businesses.
  • Long Prairie: The community project has identified two businesses open to donating space or land within or adjacent to their businesses. Interest also exists to launch new home-basechild care businesses.
  • Kanabec County: The team is planning a fair to help elevate the opportunity to expand home-based care. There also is an existing center working on a potential expansion. 
  • Morrison County: The team is exploring paths by which providers could receive health benefits and also is considering renovations to existing buildings in Little Falls to open a new center.

2020 Child Care Solutions Communities

In April 2020, the communities of Brainerd/Baxter (Crow Wing County) and Waverly (Wright County) were selected to be the next program partners. Direct community engagement will be delayed until considered safe by public health officials. However, both communities are working with First Children's Finance to address what steps can be taken remotely so that they can hit the ground running when shelter-in-place restrictions are safely lifted.

Want to Learn More?

Send an email to Don Hickman, Initiative Foundation vice president for community and workforce development, for more information.

IQ Magazine Resources



Early Childhood

Parent Aware Facts for Child Care Providers

Early Childhood Challenge Match Fact Sheet

Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative Fact Sheet

Moving to Mixed Delivery, Voluntary Preschool for Four-Year-Olds: An Approach
For Minnesota

Inside Out Connections GuideHow to Explain Jails and Prisons to Children

Early Childhood Dental

Initiative Foundation Early Childhood Dental Network Fact Sheet

Preschool Tooth TipsTips for preschool oral care

Pregnancy/Infancy Tooth Tips: oral care tips for pregnant women and infants

Baby Teeth: Bring your child to the dentist by age 1! Dentists have special tools to remove germs before it decays the teeth. It is their job to keep mouths happy and healthy. 
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Three good reasons to see the dentist by age 1 
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Expanded learning activities for “Throw Your Tooth on the Roof” book: Literacy, music and hands on activities to enhance the child’s learning experience while reading, "Throw your tooth on the roof book," by Selby Beeler.  
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Expanded learning activities for "The Tooth Book": Literacy, music and hands on activities to enhance the child’s learning experience while reading "The Tooth Book" by Doctor Seuss. Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Fun activities for the "Open Wide" bookGuidelines and fun activities and ideas to aid your child in learning the concepts shared in this book.  
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Fun activities for the "Brush Your Teeth Please" book: Fun learning activities to aid your child in learning the concepts shared in this book.  
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Back to School- for school age childrenChildren with healthy mouths are ready to learn! 
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Back to School- for preschoolers: Children with healthy mouths are ready to learn!
Somali Spanish  Hmong

Back to School- for infants and toddlers: Healthy mouths in young children is vital to their overall healthy development!  
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Helpful Links

Child Care Aware
Dental Health Theme Free Preschool Curriculum
Video: Healthy Teeth for Children- English 
Video: Healthy Teeth for Children- Spanish 
Video: Healthy Teeth for Children- Somali
Minnesota Oral Health Coalition
America’s Tooth Fairy
Oral Health America
Sip all Day, Get Decay
Children’s Dental Health Project
Colgate: Infants and Children’s Resources

From Minnesota Compass ...

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Early Childhood Initiative

The Initiative Foundation believes that nurturing young children is the responsibility of parents and communities.

The Initiative Foundation advances this belief by providing support for community-based coalitions to develop a vision and a strategic plan that focuses on quality early childcare and education. 

The Initiative Foundation in partnership with the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative strives to ...

  • Educate citizens about the first five years of rapid brain development that forms lifetime personalities, social skills and learning capacity.
  • Promote parents and families as the primary and most important caregivers of young children and fosters the concept that nurturing and educating children should be embraced by entire communities.Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative
  • Help community coalitions create a shared vision and plan of action around the care and education of young children and their families.
  • Provide training, financial and technical assistance and resource/referral services to implement quality community-based opportunities for young children.
  • Connect with other early childhood-focused communities statewide.
  • Promote and advance local, state and national public policy to support quality care and education for our youngest citizens.
  • Create and promote "one voice" around the issue of early care and to speak for those who cannot.

To date, the initiative has developed 90 early childhood coalitions in 300 communities across Greater Minnesota. The Initiative Foundation supports 20 coalitions in Central Minnesota. Visit the grants page to learn how the Initiative Foundation could help you in your efforts to support healthy children, healthy families. 

Promoting healthy social, emotional development

Statewide surveys reveal that an alarming number of Greater Minnesota children struggle with mental health issues and a striking lack of access to professional help.

These surveys paired with national studies prompted the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations to launch the Minnesota Thrive Initiative in 2007. The Minnesota Thrive Initiative goal is to build powerful community action teams that work to increase awareness, early intervention and prevention efforts among families, childcare providers and healthcare professionals.

In Central Minnesota, the Greater St. Cloud Area Thrive Coalition is working to ensure that all families have access to the information and resources they need. For more information, visit the Thrive website.



 Don Hickman
Vice President for Community
 Workforce Development
(320) 631-2043

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