A lot of potential parents put a great deal of thought into having a child. There are work schedules to consider, rooms to decorate, toys to purchase and a lot more. For would-be parents in Chippewa County, there is one more item to plan around: child care openings.
“A lot of people these days are planning to have their children around when there are daycare openings,” explained BreeAnn Bothun, the daycare/foster care licensor in Chippewa County.
“We are looking at this as a crisis,” said Deb Spaeth, community outreach coordinator for Prairie Five’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
She explained that the problem is primarily in the infant and toddler age group, which is a lot more demanding on child care providers, both in the day to day practice, as well as in regulation; Day care providers taking care of infants and toddlers are not allowed to take on too many children. With a trend in recent years, showing more Chippewa County parents needing child care in that age group, there is simply more demand than supply.
According to the most recent updates from child care providers, there are 24 family child care providers in Chippewa County, and 272 licensed spots when operating at full capacity. Out of those spots, there are zero toddler and infant spots open. Beth Dack, a coordinator with the Child Care Resource and Referal Network, also added that, “Not all providers want to operate at full capacity.”
Dack said that providers are getting phone calls from parents almost daily, looking for spots that just aren’t there. One provider, Brenda Bakker, said she is personally getting phone calls every week. “Sometimes a couple of times a week, but it’s always every week,” she said.
“(Providers) feel terrible that they can’t help these families,” Dack said.
One parent facing the shortage of child care providers is Kari Santjer, who lives in Chippewa County.
“I found out that my daycare was closing the beginning of November. I needed to find daycare by the end of November. So, I went to the childcare reference and referral center and got the names of some daycares. I called every single person on that list ... everyone told me they did not have any openings for my current child or the child that was coming,” Santjer said. “I was finally able to get ahold of one who was willing to work with me to get a variance.”
A variance basically allows a child care provider to add one extra slot for a specific child, for a specific period of time. In Santjer’s case, that time was six months. But, both Santier and staff with the Child Care Resource and Referral Network called the solution a band-aid.
Page 2 of 2 - “It will all depend on where (the provider is) at with their current kids, with their ages (in six months),” Santjer said.
As many providers are getting closer to retirement age, it is the hope of staff at the Child Care Resource and Referral Network to facilitate a better solution for Chippewa County, and the surrounding counties.
“I would encourage anyone who wants to start up a child care business to contact us,” said Spaeth.
The Child Care Resource and Referral Network, which operates out of Prairie Five locally, considers themselves a one-stop shop for child care providers, and those looking for a provider. They can provide referrals to parents, resources to providers, grants to providers and training. They’re also the place to call to get licensed. Locally, they put people in contact with Bothun.
The process of becoming licensed and ready to begin a child care business usually takes between three to six months, Bothun explained. Once an interested party gets in contact with her, Bothun sends over the paperwork needed, works with interested parties to get it registered, and makes three visits with the provider to check home safety.
“If they are really quick with the paperwork it can be shorter,” Bothun said.
When getting registered, and once registration is finished, staff with the Child Care Resource and Referral Network, such as Dack, are always there to provide training and information, and when everything is in order, a new business is added to their referral list for parents.
Bakker said that it might not be the path for everyone, but she suggests parents who are expecting a child at least consider providing child care, and have a conversation with the referral network about the option.
“If they are having trouble finding daycare, maybe they could evaluate looking at being a (stay at home parent) to their child and doing daycare as well. That’s kind of what happened to me. I’ve been doing it for 25 years now, and I don’t regret being at home with my kids and being able to make money at the same time,” Bakker said.