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Greater Minnesota groups to get $1.5 million to grow child care access

ST. PAUL -- Six Greater Minnesota regional development groups are set to receive more than $1 million in state grants aimed at growing access to child care.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services on Thursday, Jan. 17, announced that it would give state and private grant dollars totaling $1.5 million to local organizations in Little Falls, Duluth, Bemidji, Owatonna, Hutchinson and Fergus Falls. Those areas are some of those experiencing the most critical shortages in child care services.

Department officials said the state is experiencing a decline in the number of licensed family child providers and since 2012, there has been an 18-percent net decrease in providers.

“We know families are facing big challenges finding quality child care right now, especially in rural Minnesota,” Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey said in a statement. “We need to help communities find the solutions that will address this need, and we see this partnership with the Minnesota Initiative Foundations as an important part of the solution.”

The two-year grants of up to $75,000 a year will help the regional groups determine how broad the shortages are and set up a plan to fill those gaps.

Here are the groups slated to receive grant dollars:

- Initiative Foundation in Little Falls has said it will bring together local leaders and give challenge grants to help child care providers address gaps in care offerings.

- Northland Foundation in Duluth plans to offer training and grants to expand child care availability and provide help in getting new care services off the ground.

- Northwest Minnesota Foundation in Bemidji will host local conversations about boosting the number of care providers in the area and work with two high schools to let them know more about child care as a profession.

- Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation in Owatonna is set to work with community members to determine how to address child care shortages and will offer grants and training to improve the number of providers as well as the quality of services.

- Southwest Initiative Foundation in Hutchinson said it will make a marketing video, look to tackle unique training needs in the area and boost access to businesses that could help get new programs started.

- West Central Initiative in Fergus Falls created an area child care supporter position to help existing providers grow and new ones get started.