Unique initiative launches to retain and attract child care programs
Ramsey County in partnership with Think Small launches a new Early Childhood Academy, which will provide incentives and support services to attract and retain child care programs. This three-year, $750,000 initiative is a part of the Ramsey County Investment and Support Efforts program, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Ramsey County, and all of Minnesota, has long experienced a serious shortage of quality child care programs, but the problem escalated into a crisis during the pandemic. In an effort unlike any in the country, Ramsey County’s Early Childhood Academy will offer an array of new incentives and support services to increase the number of quality child care programs including:
- Workforce Retention: The Academy will provide bonuses of $1,000 per year and at least 16 hours of free professional development training to help existing participants keep their doors open to area families.
- Early Educator Recruitment: The Academy will recruit child care educators in the neighborhoods most affected by the child care crisis and provide interested residents with at least 16 hours of free training of their choosing, and 120 hours of free training that is required to achieve a Child Development Associate credential.
- New Business Start-Up: The Academy will offer a Build Your Own program that:
- Helps participants through the child care start-up process.
- Provides advice about how to locate or retrofit space.
- Matches start-up child care providers with experienced mentors who currently operate high-quality programs.
- Provides compensation to new child care providers to apply their learned skills while getting feedback in the early stages.
- Supplies training in health, safety and kindergarten-readiness best practices associated with state licensure and a Parent Aware Rating.
Since 2016, the county has lost 1,500 licensed spots, which constitutes 30 percent of total capacity. In the pandemic era, the child care sector has been one of the hardest-hit types of small business. As of September 2021, almost 60 percent of Ramsey County child care centers have experienced decline of at least 25 percent in annual attendance. During the pandemic, more than two-thirds of Ramsey County programs needed to lay off staff.
Now that the pandemic is easing, many parents are trying to return to work but can’t find quality child care openings. This is creating a labor shortage that is hurting Minnesota businesses and the entire economy.
Think Small estimates that over three years the Ramsey County Early Child Academy will serve 300 people, increase child care enrollment capacity by 420, and create 231 new jobs while simultaneously saving 972 existing enrollment slots and 90 child care jobs in the county.
Ramsey County residents and interested participants are encouraged to learn more and register at thinksmallinstitute.org/RamseyCounty.