“It is as expensive to put your child in a good quality daycare as it is to attend college,” said Marcia Ward, Winona County Commissioner.
Winona County held a town hall to address its county-wide child care shortage.
While the problem is not new to the community, it has grown in recent years.
“Winona County has a shortage of 515 slots,” said Ann Riebel, director of community education. “That doesn’t mean that there’s 515 children out there that aren’t getting care, it just means that we don’t have the right number of toddlers or we don’t have the right number of infant openings.”
The county credits the shortage in child care to the low profit margin for child care providers.
They also say there are more people, including child care providers, moving out of the area than in.
Winona isn’t in this fight alone.
“We ended up applying for a grant with First Children’s Finance and we were one of the five out of 13 applications that received the award and so we will have First Children’s Finance support for the next two years,” said Riebel.
Community members at the town hall said the shortage in child care can effect more than just parents and their kids.
“It has huge economic impacts for the county and and the county is in charge of economic development throughout the entire county,” Ward said. “Every facet of the education of children, the care, the continuing ed and everything falls into eventually creating a good workforce.”
While the county has seen more preschool child care options be made available recently, they still need more providers for infants and toddlers.
The current shortage is forcing some families to use multiple caretakers each week, which leaders say can be hard on children.
Winona County hopes to share what they learn.
“The joy of being able to have First Children’s Finance is that they will take what we do here too and they will share it, just like they’ve shared other communities with us,” said Riebel.
Next, leaders will be scheduling one-on-one meetings with some of the town hall attendees to continue working towards a solution.