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Child care access subcommittee hears emotional testimony from providers

“We have our work cut out for us.”

That’s what Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) told the House Subcommittee on Childcare Access and Affordability Wednesday.

The subcommittee didn’t discuss any bills. Instead, it heard emotional testimony from current and former child care providers who shared their struggles, highlighting reasons they believe there’s a child care crisis in Minnesota that not only impacts providers, but Minnesotans who don’t have access to affordable child care.

A common theme from the providers who testified is problems with understanding and meeting the Department of Human Services requirements for licensed family child care providers. Providers cited training requirements that don’t fit into what they do, such as those required by the Positive Supports Rule, and the additional administrative work that’s required.

WATCH Full video of the hearing

“Now the new regulations make it almost impossible to make having a family child care license feasible and productive,” Kathy Smith, a former provider at Liberty Classical Academy, said of the rules that took effect in 2015.

In addition to rules, providers also mentioned low pay, long hours and physical demands as reasons they left the business, according to a survey of former licensed family child care providers who closed between January 2015 and January 2017.  

Cisa Keller, senior vice president of early childhood quality development at Think Small, the nonprofit that conducted the survey, said it was “concerning” so many child care providers are closing across the state.

”Family child care providers are generally a more affordable option than center-based care, and are more reflective of a family’s race, culture and language,” Keller said

Something needs to change, providers stressed.

Karen White, vice president for Programs at Northwest Minnesota Foundation, said a few things could help, including:

  • implementing voluntary pre-K, but opening resources to more organizations – not just schools;   
  • changing regulations on the number of children allowed to be cared for by two adults to allow for a more viable business model; and
  • suspending the fingerprinting requirement for minors who live in the same house as a family child care provider, which goes into effect this year. 

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