Leg. to address MN child care shortage

A new committee will tour the state to listen to parents and child care providers.

Kevin Beckman

Child care in Minnesota is not only becoming more expensive but also less accessible.
 
 
The state lost more than 3,000 child care providers over the last decade, according to data from the Department of Human Services. 
 
 
Near campus, University of Minnesota-affiliated parents are struggling with the shortage firsthand as they wait their turn — sometimes for years — to get their children into care facilities.
 
 
To address the disparity, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, announced that House Republicans have formed the Select Committee on Affordable Child Care last month. 
 
 
Beginning this month, the committee will tour Greater Minnesota and partner with child care providers and parents to find solutions to the swelling price of child care. 
 
 
 “The ultimate goal is to see how we can make Minnesota a leader in child care,” said committee member Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury. “Families are having a hard time finding available or affordable child care in our communities.” 
 
 
Fenton said the shortage of child care providers is rippling out to contribute to a worker shortage in Minnesota.
 
 
“Many parents out there would love to join the workforce, but sometimes it’s the cost of [child] care that’s preventing them,” she said, adding that she has experienced the problem. “After I had my second child … it was more common sense for me to stay home because I was paying more in child care than I was actually making.” 
 
 
Tracie Myers, director of the Community Child Care Center near the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus, said the center has been impacted by the state’s shortage.
 
 
The center currently serves 55 children and has a waiting list of about 150, she said.
 
 
“Our waiting list is three times our capacity,” she said. “It just continues to grow, and that doesn’t include the people who call and just decide not to get on it.”
 
 
Myers said University student parents are prioritized but can still end up waiting months or years before their child gets care. Parents not affiliated with the University, she said, “could never get in.”
 
 
“Our waiting list has always been really, really long,” said Ann Edgerton, director of the University Child Development Center. 
 
 
Edgerton said the center currently has several hundred children on their waiting list, many of whom will have to wait up to 18 months before they can get in. 
 
 
Susan Warfield, program director for the University’s Student Parent HELP Center said that for many student parents at the U, affordability is as much of an issue as accessibility. 
 
 
Campus child care centers operate under a sliding fee scale, where parents are charged for child care based on their annual incomes. Two weeks of care at the University’s Child Development Center can cost more than $500, even for parents in the lowest income brackets. 
 
 
“Often it’s not just finding child care that is critical to our students — it’s being able to afford it,” Warfield said. “It’s outrageously 
expensive.”