I think it is good for Sleepy Eye that the city, school district and business people are concerned about child care.

Somehow, my girls grew up without too much drama in the child care arena. I was home for a few years when they were little—and even took care of a little boy for a time. I found in-home care for them (licensing wasn’t a thing then) and had high school girls come over in the summer. But, it was still a relief when they were old enough to stay home without me.

Times have really changed and there is a dire shortage of child care in our area now. The number of in-home providers has slowly dwindled. Spots for infants are almost unheard of. I’ve heard that women ask their provider to save a spot for an infant, even before getting pregnant.

The EDA helped establish the child care center at Tri-Valley by providing a match for a grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). DEED has grants for child care centers because the need is so great.

According to a report titled “A quiet crisis: Minnesota’s child care shortage” by the Center for Rural Policy and Development, even though center-based care is increasing in the metro area the story is different in rural areas: “In Greater Minnesota, center-based capacity increased by only 18 percent, or 5,039 spaces; in-home family child care capacity, in fact, decreased by 20,400 spaces for a net loss of more than 15,000 spaces.” (Between 2006 and 2015.)

I don’t have exact numbers for Sleepy Eye. I only know what I’ve seen over the past several years: some women closing their home child care businesses to take other jobs and young parents having a very difficult (panicky) time finding child care.

The in-home child care providers we have in Sleepy Eye are wonderful people, who provide loving care for the children. But, they are full—especially for infant care.

The news that Tri-Valley decided they could not continue the child care center was a blow to the families and a surprise to local officials. So far, it hasn’t made enough money, and Tri-Valley doesn’t have the resources to continue to fund the short-fall.

Why does that matter to the city, school, and local business people?

If Sleepy Eye is going to attract and keep young families—a necessity for any community that doesn’t want to wither away—quality child care options must be available. Advancing economic activity in Sleepy Eye doesn’t do any good, if people cannot accept positions in our businesses, due to a shortage of child care.