Increasing access to child care and supporting providers

A small step was taken this week to address the shortage of childcare providers across the state when senators voted to pass a package of bills on child care. This shortage means a lack of access to care for many families, particularly in rural Minnesota, and some remaining providers are struggling to keep their business afloat.

The first bill allows child care providers to make some modifications to staffing levels and qualifications that do not compromise health and safety, and requires the Department of Human Services to work with providers to address some challenges with the licensing and corrective order process.

The second bill clarifies a change made last year that required a family child care providers’ own children living in the home to submit to background checks that included fingerprinting and photographs. Many child care providers have expressed serious concerns with this requirement. The bill retains the previous background study process that requires only a name and date of birth for each child, unless there is cause for a more comprehensive review.

The third bill exempts child care providers from a rule that requires additional training and activities for providers who serve children with disabilities. Providers assert that they were improperly included under the rule and that the additional requirements will result in fewer providers who are able to accept children with disabilities into their programs.

It is critical that the legislature ensure there is consistency and clarity in the oversight of the state’s child care system. The changes contained in this legislation will help those who dedicate their lives to caring for our children. However, this legislation is only a part of the solution. Reversing the negative trend in available child care options will require continued discussion and significant investments that ensure providers are able to focus on what matters most and not whether they can afford to keep their doors open. (SF 3310, 2685, 2683)