New report addresses pandemic's impact on childcare in Greater Minnesota

Emily Ness
Updated: February 18, 2021 10:35 PM
Created: February 18, 2021 08:10 PM

In Greater Minnesota, there has long been a demand for quality child care. But, a report released by the Center for Rural Policy and Development Thursday said there has been a decrease in both family child care providers and day care centers within Greater Minnesota over time. 

“In the last 20 years, Greater Minnesota has lost over 20,000 child care spaces, all while the population has increased,” Marnie Werner, Vice President of Research and Operations said.

According to Werner, this can be attributed to family child care providers retiring without being replaced, as well as, day care centers dealing with higher overhead costs. In 2020, Werner said these challenges were amplified by the pandemic.

“Many parents kept their kids home. They may have lost their job and couldn’t pay for child care. Or, they feared their children may become infected or bring COVID home,” Werner said.

At large, Werner said 317 family child care providers and 36 day care centers closed in 2020, while 221 family child care providers and 50 day care centers opened. That is a net loss of nearly 100 family child care providers and a net gain of 14 day care centers.

Shelly Vanneste, the owner of Mesabi Pre-School Academy, opened her second day care center in Downtown Duluth during the pandemic.

Vanneste said a decrease in enrollment on top of an increase in expenses for things like PPE and paying her staff extra for working through the pandemic has been difficult.

“I think COVID has taken an already fragile system and shattered it,” Vanneste said. “As an owner, there were times I didn’t pay myself because I needed to make sure my staff got paid and that’s tough.”

While the state of Minnesota offered three rounds of emergency grants for providers during 2020, Vanneste said more support is needed in order to sustain day care centers who are struggling. 

“I’d like to see as a community, as a state, as a country and beyond that there’s value in us as childcare providers. We’re not glorified babysitters. We care for and love your children and educate them to succeed,” Vanneste said.

The Center for Rural Policy and Development is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that has been studying childcare over the last 20 years.


Emily Ness

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