Town hall meeting looks at child care issues in Alexandria area – Alexandria Echo Press


ALEXANDRIA — In August, Alexandria had 76 family licensed child care providers, five child care centers and one certified child care program.

According to the results of a survey taken by 512 area parents, it’s not enough.

Jessica Beyer, Minnesota’s associate director for First Children’s Finance, which implemented the survey, presented the results on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at Calvary Lutheran Church.

Some of the information breaks down as follows:

  • Thirty percent of responding parents say they withdrew from the work force or declined employment because of child care issues.
  • Fifty percent of employers said child care impacted their ability to attract employees.
  • Forty-eight percent of employers said it impacted their ability to retain employees.
  • Twenty-four percent of parents are traveling 11 to 30 miles one way to get child care.

Expenses are another big issue, Beyer said.
“Quality costs money, and it’s really expensive to operate for child care,” she said.

Under the current child care operation capacity, the cost of care is in the 50th percentile, Beyer said.

“On average for your price cluster, 50% is $563 a month for one pre-schooler. For a child care center for a month for a pre-schooler, it’s $780. And that’s the 50th percentile,” she said.

Lack of available programs is also an issue, she said.

About 16% of providers plan to be in business for less than three years, 24% for three to five years and 32% for more than 10 years, Beyer said.

These statistics reflect only the programs that operate all day, every day, she added.

The lack of programs is also reflected in family planning, with 61% of survey respondents saying they were affected by it.

“They’re choosing when to have children or not to have any more children due to lack of child care,” Beyer said.

Alexandria was one of 10 communities in Minnesota that took part in the survey, which was performed by First Children’s Finance through the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, Beyer said.

“It’s a really innovative community engagement process to address the challenges of child care in rural communities,” she said.

Beyer said the survey gives communities a way to come together to see what the issue looks like, how it can be solved, how to support existing programs and how to combat challenges.

“It’s really, really important to have vibrant child care programs in your community so parents can access child care and they can be allowed to work,” Beyer said. “If employees can’t find care for their children, they won’t work for you, they won’t move to your community, or they’ll be forced to move away, or they might have to consider quitting their job to stay home to take care of their children because they have no other option.”

The return on the investment in these programs is “huge,” Beyer said.

“It’s about a $17 to $1 return on your investment,” she said. “So every dollar a community invests in high-quality education there’s a $17 return on investment long-term. What we are talking about is less incarceration, less teenage pregnancy, less drug and alcohol abuse, higher home ownership rates, higher savings account rates, higher employment rates — all of that can boil down to the first few years of life.”

First Children’s Finance is a national nonprofit organization that provides loans and business development assistance to child care businesses serving low- and moderate-income families.

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