Morrison County currently has 80 licensed child care providers, but there is still a shortage.
On Tuesday, Sourcewell Senior Licensing Specialist Michelle Tautjes and Regional Licensing Specialist Alissa Erdrich led the Morrison County Board of Commissioners in a presentation on the state of home child care programs in the county. . Morrison County has partnered with Sourcewell for home child care and adult placement licensing since 2018.
“We first did it on a part-time basis with one of our employees who had other work responsibilities, and it still hasn’t been a priority,” the health and social services director said. (HHS), Brad Vold. “It’s been a good fit.”
Sourcewell currently partners with eight counties. Erdrich is the licensing specialist for Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. It has several roles within these partnerships.
These include regulating family child care and home-based programs. They are required to make an unannounced visit to each provider each year, unless they receive a complaint, in which case they work with child protection to follow up. They also advocate for the children, adults and providers they work with.
There are three licensing specialists covering all eight counties via Sourcewell. They have a workload of around 160 vendors each.
Erdrich said in accessing the county’s current 80 vendors, six new ones were added last year, but the county also lost eight. As of May this year, five new vendors have been licensed, six have quit, but five applicants are currently working to get their license.
Following the presentation, Commissioner Randy Winscher asked what reasons they tend to hear from those leaving the program.
“I would say the kids are getting more and more difficult,” Tautjes said. “We are seeing more behavioral (problems) being a big challenge. It’s hard for them to deal with that in addition to doing everything else. They are the caretaker, they are the cook, they have to clean up. They do everything from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., whatever their schedules. These are long days. There could be many factors why they leave.
Vold added that several rules and regulations have been added in recent years that have made licensing more difficult for some potential vendors. HHS Supervisor Melanie Erickson said many of them revolve around supervision and safe sleep.
The safe sleep rules were a reaction to an increase in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It can also present challenges for suppliers. If an infant has a habit of sleeping on his stomach at home, he is not allowed to do so while in the care of his provider. This can lead to lack of sleep and behavioral issues.
Tautjes said these rules and regulations are there for a reason. Licensing specialists do their best to guide applicants through the process, even though it has become complex.
“When I started daycare, it was a one-and-a-half-page checklist,” Erdrich said. “You went into the house, you checked those security features, those formations. Now, if we print it out, it’s 52 pages. It’s very cumbersome.
Sourcewell offers an exit survey for providers when choosing to leave the childcare field. It also helps licensing specialists resolve issues or concerns that they see popping up on a regular basis.
To help with the licensing process, Tautjes said Sourcewell implemented a “self-paced orientation” last fall. This allows candidates to complete their orientation within 24 hours of application so specialists can guide them through the process more quickly.
They also offer a mentorship program for new vendors. This helps to ensure that they understand all the aforementioned rules and regulations.
“It’s definitely information overload at the start,” Tautjes said.
Vold added that the Sourcewell website is also a good resource for anyone interested in becoming a supplier.
Each year, a Supplier of the Year is named in each of Sourcewell’s eight counties. They are appointed by the parents of the children in their care.
The 2021 Morrison County Supplier of the Year was Joelle Lucking, of Pierz. This year’s winner will be announced at the annual conference in September.
Tautjes said licensing specialists are always collecting and researching information they can use to improve their services or provide opportunities for vendors. Every week, she said, they collect information received from different agencies. This includes grant opportunities, license changes and more. All of this is then sent to suppliers in an email once a week.
She said many changes would also be implemented by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) over the next three years. Most of them are aimed at modernizing these home child care regulations.
The state is also looking at ways to provide provider training, as well as alternative licensing models. This is done primarily by looking at other states to see how Minnesota’s program can be improved to help alleviate the statewide shortage.
“If you could look ahead, or maybe give us some insight from a look ahead into what we can see as potential for new vendors and opportunities,” the board chairman said. of Directors, Greg Blaine. “When we look at economic development, that’s a big part of that. A big foot in that stool is having child care services so employees can enter the workforce.
Tautjes said DHS keeps an open mind when it comes to resolving child care issues. A fairly new trend is the “pod model”. This allows home child care providers to work outside of their home, but also not to work in a child care centre.
She said there have been more suppliers in recent years who have said they would like to work outside their home.
“It’s kind of between the home child care provider and the center, right in the middle, where they can operate in a commercial space, they can operate in a church, they can do new construction and operate four programs in one place,” Tautjes said.
Another trend noted by Tautjes is that suppliers tend not to stay with the company that long. Where it was common for them to provide in-home child care for over 20 years, now many are leaving after five years.
She said that’s not necessarily a problem, as long as groups like Sourcewell can continue to recruit new vendors to fill those gaps.
“Again, I think there’s a nationwide labor shortage when it comes to child care,” Tautjes said. “…I think it’s something we all go through. I think it’s promising that DHS is providing more options for providers to apply, whether at home, outside of home, or (in) a center.
Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski noted that – although he has no children himself – he has heard that childcare is “extremely expensive”. He asked if there were any programs for parents to help pay for childcare costs so they don’t have to choose between staying at home or joining – or re-entering – the workforce.
Tautjes said there is a program called Child Care Assistance across the county. This is based on the income eligibility of the parents or guardians. However, providers have the choice of whether or not to accept families receiving child care assistance.
“We have cash available,” Vold said.
Erdrich added that if a program is star-rated through Child Care Aware, grant funds are also available for families. If a family qualifies, they can usually receive between $2,000 and $5,000 per year for child care expenses.
“We’ve done a lot of work trying to bring businesses to town, these corporations and all that,” Commissioner Mike Wilson said. “Has there been much discussion with any of them about the possibility of having daycare on site at some of these companies where they provide that for their employees? Have there been any discussions about this? Or, is this an avenue you would consider? »
Erdrich said she hasn’t spoken to any companies coming to Morrison County, although that’s a concern she’s heard of. Often, she says, it comes down to space within the business – whether there’s room for a childcare area outside of the workspace.
“I can just see a big incentive for employees to come if they provide child care or something in those places,” Wilson said. “Maybe that’s something to think about.”
Tautjes also noted that the city of Little Falls recently learned that it will receive $1.5 million under a federal appropriations bill to address child care needs within the city. community. Exact details on the requirements surrounding this funding or how it will be spent are not yet known.
Previously, Little Falls City administrator Jon Radermacher suggested that a facility might eventually use the pod model.
“I haven’t really heard the whole plan of what Jon plans to do with these funds, but it’s exciting for your region,” Tautjes said.