Spots at local child care centers are hard to come by and over the last few years, providers have decided to close their doors, prompting local officials to seek help and offer resources to those who already run child care businesses, as well as those interested in starting one.
That’s the goal of the Carlton County Child Care Resource Forum set for Saturday, Nov. 13, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Carlton County Transportation Building. The event is hosted by the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, Child Care Aware, the Northland Foundation and the Jump Start 4 Kindergarten Program.
“We’d love to add slots so families can access more child care. If you think about families moving into an area, child care is an important piece of that. If we can work to better support and connect our providers in Carlton County, we hope to expand child care,” said Tess Christensen, the county’s Jump Start 4 Kindergarten coordinator.
The need for child care in Carlton County increased from July 2020 to April 2021, according to a report on the demand for child care in the Northland conducted by the Duluth-based firm Northspan.
While the county saw an increase of 42 slots during that timeframe, the report found the number of child care slots Carlton County needs grew by 37 to 525.
Saturday’s free event will offer people who already work in child care the opportunity to network and attend a training session from 10 a.m. to noon. It will also offer those who are interested in opening up a child care business information on regulations and business supports, Christensen said.
Rural areas of Carlton County have been especially impacted, she said, as small, in-home day care operations, also known as family child care providers, have closed. That’s where county officials saw the greatest decline.
“The family child care piece is just so important, because they are often the ones caring for infants and toddlers and they’re also out in rural areas,” Christensen said.
The costs of offering child care combined with increased regulations and a shortage of workers have put additional burdens on child care providers, Christensen said.
The event is an extension of work that was started before the COVID-19 pandemic to work at meeting the county’s needs for child care.
However, the pandemic put those efforts on hold and threw the importance of child care into the spotlight.
“Essential workers had to get their kids somewhere … thankfully, I think there is a new motivation to reinvest in early childhood and child care,” she said.
IF YOU GO
What: Carlton County Child Care Resource Forum
When: Saturday, Nov. 13
When: 9 a.m.-noon
Where: Carlton County Transportation Building, 1630 County Road 61, Carlton
Admission: Free; registration is preferred. Visit https://bit.ly/3jdpwkX to register.