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Initiative Quarterly

Child Care Solutions


A Dire Situation: Child Care Shortage in Central Minnesota

The Initiative Foundation is pleased to announce a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development 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.”
Challenges Include: 
  • In Central Minnesota, 85 percent of communities have a population of 3,000 or less. The nature of our smaller communities means they often lack a concentrated number of children needed to ensure providers can generate enough revenue to make their operations profitable.
  • In nearly all communities, low wages and lack of benefits are an obstacle for new workers who might otherwise enter 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 can 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.

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 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 needs 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 range of resources to engage and assist stakeholders who are working to advance sustainable solutions to the child care shortage. Efforts include recruitment and training; community education and facilitation; and child care business consulting and facilitation.

Recruitment, Training for Child Care Professionals

Three community and technical colleges in the region—Central Lakes College (Brainerd), Pine Technical and Community College and St. Cloud Technical and Community College—have received grant support for students interested in gaining the credentials to advance in the child care sector. From entry-level childhood development associate certificate to advanced degrees, these institutions can offer packages that allow students to graduate debt-free. The goal of the program is to recruit new workers into the sector and/or help them gain the credentials to earn higher pay. Learn more:

Lakeshore Learning, Inc., offered online training that enabled participants to earn quality-improvement credits. The cost of these trainings was underwritten by the Initiative Foundation thanks to grant support from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. This training opportunity is no longer available. 

Community Engagement and Facilitation

First Children’s Finance is under contract with the Initiative Foundation to provide community facilitation to engage employers, providers, school districts, parents and others affected by a lack of child care. As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), staff at First Children’s Finance present hard data on the size and location of child care gaps. They help facilitate conversations about assets and challenges, and they have a shared goal of identifying practical strategies to improve access to quality, affordable child care.

The Initiative Foundation can support up to three $10,000 grants annually to communities that complete this highly effective form of strategic planning and goal setting. First Children’s Finance can also offer business consulting and financing to child care providers. Contact Candace Cegla at First Children’s Finance or call (320) 288-2698.

Business Consulting and Technical Assistance

Business of Child Care is available to provide one-on-one business consulting and counseling for child care providers. Any work with Business of Child Care is underwritten by the Initiative Foundation, thanks to grant support from DEED. Visit their Initiative Foundation landing page to learn more.

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 



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

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