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Initiative Quarterly

Four Communities Selected for Child Care Solutions

April 11, 2019

Greater St. Cloud, Greater Todd County, Little Falls, Milaca pioneer program to develop community solutions to child care shortage

The Initiative Foundation, in partnership with First Children's Finance, today announced that four Central Minnesota communities have been selected to participate in the Child Care Solutions pilot program to craft local responses to the region's child care shortage.


The selected communities are:

  • Little Falls (Morrison County)
  • Greater St. Cloud (Stearns and Benton Counties),
  • Todd County (including Long Prairie, Clarissa, and Staples/Motley)
  • Milaca (Mille Lacs County)

The Child Care Solutions program is supported by funding from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Each community will work with First Children's Finance to develop a real-time strategic plan that identifies local assets to support the delivery of quality child care. The plan
also will assess current and future barriers and outline the best use of grant dollars to support
the growth and quality of local child care options.

When their respective plans are complete, each community will receive a $10,000 grant from the Initiative Foundation. The expectation is that private or public sector partners will match the grant, resulting in a minimum of $20,000 to advance community-based solutions.
Outcomes could include:

  • Professional development of child care providers.
  • Succession planning for providers nearing retirement, or planning that retains child care providers who might otherwise leave field.
  • Improvements to child care sites to increase capacity or enhance quality.
  • Exploration of alternative business models to improve the economics for child care providers.
  • An exploration of partnerships to provide benefits for child care providers.
  • An exploration of private-sector partnerships (e.g., free space within employer-owned facilities) to reduce the cost for providers and families.
  • Forgivable loans.

"The lack of child care in rural communities is an incredible workforce issue," said Don Hickman, Initiative Foundation vice president for workforce and community development. Central Minnesota communities are filled "with two-parent households that would like to have both spouses working, but there is no place for their kids to go for care. This situation is holding us back."

In fact, families often need to make tough choices between career advancement and family well-being. "In Central Minnesota we have more than 17,000 parents with children in need of child care who can't find it," Hickman said. "In many cases, parents are choosing to withdraw from the workforce or are reliant on family and friends to care for their kids."

The child care crisis is gaining notice statewide, with two bills in the Minnesota Legislature that could expand this opportunity: one would offer matching funds for child care capital expenses, and the other would award $330,000 to each of the six Initiative Foundations to support Child Care Solutions and similar programs. If either bill pass, the Initiative Foundation would likely add additional communities to its program later in 2019.

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