Cook County Prepares to Kick-Off Support for Local Childcare Providers
COOK COUNTY, MINNESOTA ~~~~~ January 24, 2023 (LSNews) Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) along with the Cook County Economic Development Authority (EDA) are preparing to launch a series of efforts to strengthen local childcare systems in 2023. Alison McIntyre, Director of Cook County Public Health and Human Services states, “Childcare is an essential resource for our local families, workforce and community. Families throughout Cook County and the region have been impacted by the shortage of affordable, high-quality care for many years. The PHHS department is proud to be a partner in the ongoing collaborative efforts and infusion of new resources to support existing providers and expand access to care.”
PHHS and the EDA aim to tackle this problem head-on by implementing a range of supports for new and existing childcare providers. Together the two agencies successfully applied for and received $180,000 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to support these initiatives. The DEED grant includes funding to:
- Create a community-wide communications and recruitment campaign to encourage people to join the local childcare workforce. This includes hiring bonuses for new childcare workers.
- Support childcare providers to receive continuing education by covering the time and cost of completing their Child Development Associate credential.
- Create a temporary subsidized slot program for start-up or expanding childcare businesses to help reduce initial financial risk.
- Encourage all local childcare providers to attend monthly childcare provider mentorship meetings, cofacilitated by ISD 166 and PHHS, by providing participation stipends.
- Pilot the creation of a shared childcare substitute provider pool, available to all local, licensed providers, with the aim of reducing childcare program closures due to staff absences.
This grant complements a locally funded wage enhancement program for licensed childcare providers to increase hourly pay by $5.79/hour so that local pay more closely matches the DEED proposed average hourly wage for early childhood educators ($19.29/hour). This program is slotted to begin in January 2023 and run through the calendar year. The DEED grant also complements a $30,000 award to PHHS from First Children’s Finance to aid childcare providers with either start-up or expansion costs, as well as to make facility modifications to meet licensing requirements set by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Within PHHS, a reimagined Childcare Coordinator/Licensor position, recently filled by Nancie Deming, provides crucial support to implementing the various childcare initiatives underway for 2023. Nancie comes to PHHS with an extensive background working with early childhood initiatives throughout the region. “I’m thrilled to continue to support childcare providers to create and maintain safe, nurturing places for our young children to grow and thrive through my new role with the County,” stated Deming. She continued, “Ultimately, we hope that we can bring new providers into the community, create more childcare slots and choices for families, while we support staff retention too. The providers that I have worked with throughout the area are dedicated and passionate about providing high quality care. As a community, I am thrilled that we have found new ways to show them that we recognize the important work they do every day. Together, we can make sure they have what they need to feel supported as they continue to provide excellent care for our children.” If community members are interested in starting a childcare business or joining the childcare workforce through one of our local established programs, they can reach out to Nancie at (218) 387-5392.
Community engagement with the various childcare initiatives underway is crucial. PHHS has formed a subcommittee of its Advisory Council, named “Childcare Solutions” to meet monthly throughout 2023 to help keep members of the public informed, and explore avenues for ongoing support of childcare providers as well as families with young children in care. This hybrid group meets monthly on the second Wednesday from 2:30-4:00 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to participate, and notes from meetings will be posted the County’s online meeting portal starting in January.
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