Child Care Crunch

Q: One of the most frustrating aspects of our upcoming divorce is going to be the problem of childcare due to both of us needing to work full-time. I am on two waiting lists but have no assurance my daughters will find an affordable placement. How do other Northland parents deal with this?

A:   Our childcare crunch is a state-wide issue and many communities, including the city of Duluth, are striving to address it. Part of the problem has been created by regulations to help ensure the safety of our children. The unintended consequences include a decline in providers who feel handcuffed by red tape. According to a Wilder Research report in 2018, the number of family childcare programs in our region “has decreased by more than 20 percent since 2011.”

Legislators are aware of the childcare shortage, calling it a crisis. They recognize that unless solutions can be found it will impact our region’s quality of life. According to a recent Duluth News Tribune story, the childcare shortage “makes skilled workers harder to recruit and retain for local businesses, could lead to future disparities in the achievement gap in our schools, and could cap our long-term economic potential if left unaddressed.”

I realize this does not help your short term, but it’s useful to know that the problem is out in the open and is recognized as an important need to be dealt with. 

Because of the tight daycare options available, it is essential to be working on finding a suitable placement as soon as possible once you’re aware that there will be a need. Don’t wait till the day you need it. For some, it takes months to find a fitting situation.

In Hermantown, for example, the Y is building its fifth branch, which also has child care. Even though it’s opening in November, according to president and CEO Sara Cole, it’s already filling up and is certain to have a waiting list before it opens.

The intact extended family used to be a safety valve for many working parents when the children were ill or situations arose. Unfortunately, this is not the option it used to be for many families.

Jessica Sterle

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