Hutchinson group seeks daycare solutions | Local


There are an estimated 847 childcare spots needed for children from birth to age 5 in Mcleod County. According to data from First Children’s Finance, 445 of those unavailable spots are in the Hutchinson School District.

“Lack of childcare has impacts throughout the community,” said Liz Danielson, a member of the newly formed Hutchinson Rural Childcare Innovation Program.

A lack of childcare forces parents to make tougher choices regarding their role in the work force, and impacts work performance. It impacts the wellbeing of children during essential learning years that prepare them for the rest of their education and the rest of their lives, and it prevents families from having children in the first place.

Those are a few of the motivations driving the Hutchinson Rural Childcare Innovation Program. It’s a piece of the larger Rural Childcare Innovation Program, which is supported and funded by First Children’s Finance, a national nonprofit that provides loans and business development assistance to childcare businesses serving low- and moderate-income families.

“That’s all they do,” said JoEllen Kimball, a member of the Hutchinson group. “They help communities work on daycare and early childhood programs.”

Both Danielson and Kimball are among the roughly 20 local volunteers who started working in early August to study childcare in Hutchinson and explore ways to make it more accessible. They’re tackling the job with resources and expertise from First Children’s Finance, which might be able to provide grants and loans for childcare workers. Hutchinson is one of many communities facing shortages, and was selected to be part of the RCIP program through a competitive application process launched by Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism President Mary Hodson.

“The first priority is to support the existing childcare providers in the community, and make sure they’re doing OK,” Danielson said. “The second is to identify what the solution is to get more quality childcare spots in the community, and also to provide resources to get to that.”

To get the ball rolling, the Hutchinson RCIP hopes to spread awareness of the issue, a job aided by the communications group, of which Danielson and Kimball are members. 

“(We hope) to inform the community about the importance of childcare and early child development, age birth to five, and why everyone should care about it, even if they don’t have children age birth to five,” Danielson said.

Data provided by First Children’s Finance showing the daycare shortage in McLeod County indicates those who have been unable to find quality daycare. It does not include parents who chose to be a stay-at-home parent and are not in need of childcare.

“These childcare needs are likely being met through one of the following scenarios: legal unlicensed care (family, friends and neighbors watch kids), un-employment (one parent cannot work), under-employment or shift alignment (one parent works part time or nights in order to be home with kids), illegal/unlicensed care, or out of area care (some parents commute outside of their community in order to find childcare),” First Children’s Finance’s report says.

Those interested in the project can look out for two events in the near future. The first is a to-be-scheduled appreciation event for the community’s current childcare providers. Then, in a few months, a community town hall meeting is in the works, meant as a way to gather information regarding solutions. But there is a way to help now as well. The Hutchinson RCIP has four surveys ready to gather data: one for parents, employees, family providers and daycare center directors.

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