Forum News Service (ND, SD, MN, WI)
The number of childcare facilities continues to slump in the Upper Midwest, and it’s likely the COVID-19 pandemic will take a further toll, according to recently released annual tracking report and multiple surveys by organizations who monitor child care options.
Particularly hard hit in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota are family providers, a major piece of the childcare puzzle in largely rural states, where families set up their own, often in-home facilities to care for their friends' and neighbors' children.
"With a spread-out, rural setting, it seems to be more feasible, oftentimes, to have family childcare," said Dionne Dobbins, senior director of research at Child Care Aware of America, an advocacy group which released the report in conjunction with its new Child Care Data Center funded by the the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The state by state data summarized key findings from data collected in 2019 and partial 2020 information and included Child Care Aware's summary of the pandemic's effects based on 88 surveys on the topic conducted by nonprofits and gathered by The Urban Institute.
Very few organizations track child care providers, cost and access at a state by state level. Dobbins, with Child Care Aware, said the organization sees the data gathering as a crucial part of understanding the national child care situation, and a key component of advocacy.
“The childcare system in and of itself is fragmented and inequitable and inaccessible and underfunded, and I would say the data pieces of that childcare system are the same," Dobbins said. "We know we need good data, we need standardized data, we need similar data across the country to understand both the landscape and understand where things are equitable and inequitable."