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Majority of Minnesota child care providers have considered quitting, survey says

WORTHINGTON — It’s no secret that rural Minnesota, and the state as a whole, is losing family child care providers at a rapid pace.  

A recent survey explains why, and paints a dismal picture that depicts an industry on the verge of collapse.

Of more than 2,500 in-home providers surveyed by the Minnesota Association of Child Care Providers (MACCP), more than 70 percent considered closing their business in the last five years and another six percent made the decision to close.

“I believe that,” said Darcy Poppema, president of the Nobles County Daycare Association. “I think I’ve heard that from the majority of Worthington daycares in the past five years.”

Of those surveyed, more than 92 percent said increased regulation and paperwork requirements were a primary reason they considered quitting. Also listed were increased training requirements (48.66 percent), more punitive methods of oversight (46.75) and mandatory fingerprinting of minors living in a family child care home (40.78).

The reasons are similar in the Worthington area, Poppema said.

“Having to fingerprint their kids was one thing they were really upset about,” Poppema said.

Last week, Minnesota Senators passed a trio of bills meant to fix some of the above issues. A bill (SF 2683) from Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, would exempt most children of in-home providers from background check requirements such as fingerprinting.

Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, proposed a bill (SF 2685) to exempt some providers from a mandated training that details strategies for working with kids with developmental disabilities or related conditions.

Another bill (SF 3310) from Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, would reduce insurance paperwork, allow for easier licensing of caretakers, allow group family day cares more flexibility depending on the children in the program on a given day, improve the state’s daycare website and direct the Department of Human Services to identify and reduce regulatory burdens.

Weber called the bills “a good starting point” and said legislators will continue to examine the state’s issues over the next several months.

Julie Seydel, policy director for MACCP, is on the same wavelength.

“There’s a lot more to be done … these bills are just a start of it,” Seydel said. “These bills are the most important issues we had, and with a short session, we were told we had to pick three to four topics we needed to work on this year to get them done.”

Seydel said she is already working with legislators on further fixes for next year, many of which deal with reducing paperworking and rules that aren’t related to health and safety. The hope is the bills will lower that 70 percent figure.

“I think we will hold off on the bleeding on family child care … a lot of people will not quit,” Syedel said. “It will take a while, but I think we can start pulling people back into family child care. If you ask a current provider ‘Hey, I’m thinking of getting into child care, what do you think,’ 99 percent of them are going to say, ‘don’t do it.’ We can change that.”