Parents know that access to affordable child care is a challenge across Minnesota.
We have a shortage. Providers are leaving the field in droves, while parents are desperately trying to find affordable care — or care at all, for that matter.
It’s an issue I have firsthand experience with as a former child-care provider. And it’s an issue thousands of families face daily.
I appreciate that the Star Tribune Editorial Board recognizes the severity of this problem (“Child-care subsidies need boost from state,” March 24). That urgency is why, over the past year, legislators traveled the state to listen to the voices of providers, parents and communities as part of the newly formed Select Committee on Affordable Child Care.
These meetings gave us valuable feedback and made clear we are facing a complex and multifaceted issue, one that requires intense examination and careful consideration.
Increasing paperwork and redundant requirements, ever-changing regulations, continued struggles with a layered bureaucracy and higher operating costs are pushing providers out of the field. As a result, parents can’t find care.
That is why I am surprised by the Editorial Board’s simplistic assertion that putting tens of millions — or even hundreds of millions — of dollars toward the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP, subsidies for low-income families) is the be-all and end-all solution that will solve Minnesota’s child-care crisis.
Providers have told us that CCAP increases will in no way inspire folks to enter or stay in child care.
As a former provider, I understand that providers support CCAP. We want all kids to have opportunities for quality care.
But the CCAP system itself is flawed and saddles providers with hours of extra paperwork each month and needless headaches. The program is actually pushing providers away from taking CCAP families, even if they truly do want to help them. That’s the opposite effect this program should be having.
A simple funding solution leaves out much-needed reform to the system. What’s more, it does nothing to support middle-class families who are struggling to find and afford care. Even if CCAP was funded by hundreds of millions more dollars, we still wouldn’t have the providers to take care of kids on that program.
Simply put: Slapping a Band-Aid on this gaping wound is not the solution providers and families deserve. We must solve the access problem first.
The first step is to stop the exodus of providers leaving the industry. That is why we are actually working with providers instead of imposing top-down demands on them — an unfortunate reality they have experienced over the last few years.
We are signaling that we’re on their side. We want their small businesses to succeed so they can give care to children.
The entire child-care system — including CCAP — needs to be examined in depth. We believe in better, more thoughtful solutions. Those solutions take time.
That’s why we are fighting for a task force that would meet throughout the year to vet the entire system piece by piece. What do small fixes and major reforms look like — and how much do they cost?
Providers and parents will have a seat at the table for this discussion. All voices will be heard, and a comprehensive plan will be put forward for next session.
We can and must do better.
Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, is a member of the Minnesota House.