Northland Foundation taps new resources and expands roles to address child care challenges

child care photoThe Northland Foundation has been a driving force in promoting early childhood development and high-quality care and education for over 15 years. We know, and research affirms, that investing in young children pays long-term dividends.

In 2003, the Northland Foundation, along with the five other Minnesota Initiative Foundations and The McKnight Foundation, created the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative. This groundbreaking, rural-led movement brought early childhood into the spotlight from the northwoods of Ely to the capitol building in St. Paul. The 12 Early Childhood Coalitions that Northland Foundation established in our region are today part of a thriving network of 90 coalitions throughout Greater Minnesota.

New opportunities that scaffold off of this foundational work have continued to arise. For example, families seeking child care are met with long waiting lists and few options; community members and businesses have spoken about the need for more high-quality child care in northeastern Minnesota; and providers face hurdles of time and cost to become licensed and to earn a Parent Aware rating (Minnesota's quality rating system). The Northland Foundation is listening and responding.

The pressing need for more child care

“A lack of good, affordable, reliable child care impacts not only families but also employers. It's an economic as well as a social issue that our society has to come to grips with in order to thrive.” -- Tony Sertich, President of the Northland Foundation.

While there are alarming child care shortages across Greater Minnesota, northeastern Minnesota has the most dramatic shortfall. An October 2016 report by the nonprofit Center for Rural Policy and Development indicated that 55 percent more openings are needed in our region.

"The results of the October report, although sobering, came as no real surprise. Through our early childhood work in communities, we have heard over and over that the demand for child care far exceeds availability, causing hardships for families and employers," said Lynn Haglin, Vice President/KIDS PLUS Director at the Northland Foundation.

At nine informal listening sessions that Northland hosted in seven counties and on the Fond du Lac Reservation this past spring, the child care shortage was a recurring theme, as well.

Different avenues and new resources

The Northland Foundation is leveraging past experience to do more to bolster early care and education and increase access to high-quality care. We are engaging all our program areas in these efforts: Grants, KIDS PLUS, and Business Finance. Among the most recent opportunities we have pursued are:

“The Northland Foundation Board of Trustees and our staff are committed to doing more to reduce the barriers faced by families and by providers to access and offer high-quality care for young children. The future of our communities depends on us all working together to find solutions," concluded Tony Sertich.