Child care remains top priority in East Grand Forks with work on action plan underway – Grand Forks Herald


EAST GRAND FORKS – Nearly a year after the city started working with the

Rural Child Care Innovation Program

and creating a Community Solution Action Plan, efforts toward improving child care availability continue in East Grand Forks.

Among the developments: Implementing financial support for child care providers.

At present, core team members for the action plan are working with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation to create a sustainable funding source. The funding would help reduce capital and operating costs for child care. That’s something Paul Gorte, the local economic development director, said is a common need among child care providers in the community.

“One of the issues locally is our capital costs and operating costs,” Gorte said. “The fact that their revenues are low — they’re not adequate to meet the operating capital costs needed for a child care facility. The goal really addresses ‘what can we do to make it more economical to open and operate a child care facility?’ ”

A proposed child care foundation with NMF wouldn’t rely on public funds, but would instead rely on charitable contributions and grants. Child care providers would be able to apply for assistance to help with a multitude of expenses associated with operating a child care center.

“For example, you have to buy a new piece of equipment or install a fence, you can apply for assistance to do that so it doesn’t come out of your regular revenues,” Gorte said.

Work for the child care foundation is still in the initial stages. Gorte said the Economic Development Authority is looking at applying for a grant with First Children’s Finance. If it’s received, it would have to be used within six months, but it would be a start.

Implementing financial support is one of six goals in the Community Solution Action Plan. The goals were formed after

town hall meetings

were held earlier in the year to allow parents and child care providers to share their thoughts and solutions for child care needs in the community.

The other goals entail:

  • Sponsoring an annual recognition event to support/celebrate providers.
  • Formalizing a process for annual fire extinguisher checks to be completed at the location of the child care businesses.
  • Identifying a solution to complete required background checks/fingerprinting locally.
  • Maintaining and increasing by at least 20 qualified child care workers by working with Northland Community and Technical College to increase accessibility to training opportunities (pediatric first aid and CPR) and having access to Early Childhood training in the high school/NCTC to help grow qualified staffing numbers.
  • Creating a facility list of available locations for “center” (which serve upwards of 100 children) and “family” (limited to a certain number of children) child care options to create more child care slots in the community.

The process of having annual fire extinguisher checks at the location of each child care center has been completed. Work on the remaining goals is ongoing. The action plan was created from the city’s participation with the RCCIP, an incentive of First Children’s Finance, funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Michigan Department of Education. The program uses a community engagement approach to explore solutions to child care challenges in rural communities.

Gorte, one of several core team members working on the project, said the program was initially slated to wrap up in two years, but work will continue to address child care needs in the community as needed. Part of that is due to the high turnover rate for those in the child care industry.

“There’s going to be an ongoing need because people go in and out of business. It’s going to be a long-term effort,” Gorte said.

Other than talking though the challenges associated with child care on a team level, Gorte stressed that actually carrying out those plans has been the biggest part of creating solutions.

While additional town halls aren’t planned for the near future, Gorte said feedback is welcome from those who may have thoughts and ideas they want to share.

“We always take any comments anyone has today or any point in the future,” Gorte said. “You don’t have to wait for a town hall meeting to give us an idea.”

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