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Funding sought for community groups to train informal child care providers

Community groups sometimes train legal, but unlicensed, child care providers, particularly in immigrant and diverse communities, and help them connect with services and resources.

Ongoing state funding could help local and indigenous community groups working with those informal child care providers to strengthen community bonds and ensure families understand the value of early childhood literacy and development, Beth Ann Dodds told the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday.

A project coordinator with Indigenous Visioning, Dodds supports HF3591 that would appropriate $5 million in fiscal year 2023 for grants to community-based organizations through the Department of Human Services. It would help promote healthy development, social-emotional learning, early literacy, and school readiness, said Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield), the bill sponsor.

Priority would be given to organizations working with informal care providers serving children from low-income families, families of color, tribal communities, or families with limited English proficiency.

The bill was laid over, as amended, for further consideration. Its companion, SF3313, sponsored by Sen. Melissa Wiklund (DFL-Bloomington), awaits action by the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee.

Family, friends and neighbors who provide child care are often chosen by parents with infants and toddlers, particularly those from diverse cultural and ethnic communities, parents who work non-standard hour jobs or when licensed family care is out of reach financially or geographically. The informal networks also provide cultural and religious values that may not be available elsewhere.

Absence of bilingual child care drives many families to seek help from trusted sources within their network, said Jennyffer Barrientos, director for Growing Up Healthy. She said state funds would be spent on programs, such as providing CPR training in native languages of care providers, which would help create a safe environment for children.

The bill would also help community groups break barriers families deal with and strengthen social connectedness, she said.

The use of family, friends and neighbors as child care providers grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Cindi Yang, director of child care services for the Department of Human Services. The department heard from families, care providers, and community-based groups about support the program would need in the face of continuing child care center closures, she said.

Last year, the department provided funding to state and local agencies working with informal child care providers to enhance distance learning, technology support and education about child care licensing.

Instead of giving tax-dollars to nonprofits, licensed child care could be promoted, and a grant program for CPR training be established, said Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria).

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