Wanted: Family childcare providers

Karen Newman

 How can Minnesota communities grow when the demand for high-quality, affordable child care for working peoples’ children is greater than the supply? Cities, small towns and rural areas are increasingly aware that the availability of licensed child care remains a chronic issue statewide. Karen Hellem and Julie Klier, Clay County social workers assigned to the department’s Family Child Care Licensing unit with the assistance of NDSU Student Intern Rebecca Tripp, urge qualified individuals to consider an in-home child care career. They emphasized that as the Baby Boomer generation of child care providers contemplate retirement, replacements will be more urgently needed than ever.

According to their records, Hellem and Klier reported that currently 144 Clay County family child care providers are licensed or in the process of licensing but more are needed.  The pair commended the Clay County Commissioners for their support as Klier said, “The commissioners are always aware of the need for more qualified family child care providers.”  They emphasized that the commissioners understand that family child care providers are community small-business entrepreneurs and affirmed that Clay County government officials regard those providing child care as important, respected professionals.

For parents/guardians beginning the process of choosing a child care facility, the Minnesota Department of Human Services provides the following information about the importance of licensing:

Parents who use child care entrust their children to a care provider for many hours each day. Licensing child care helps protect the health and safety of children by requiring that providers meet minimum standards for care and physical environment.

A recruiting poster distributed for potential family child care providers by Clay County Social Services emphasizes the many roles an in-home child care provider fills including a teacher,entertainer,friend,peacemaker, protector, mentor ,chef , storyteller, supporter, superhero, companion,business owner and much more.

Because there is work and preparation required to start any small business, a visit to the Clay County website at https://claycountymn.gov/27/Government under the Social Services link provides information about background checks, fingerprinting, licensing fees, fire marshal visits, training classes, continuing education and the forms to be submitted with the initial application. 

For those planning to open a family child care in their homes, or for those wondering about the application requirements and process, a free two-hour training session is offered at the county offices.  The class, offered in even-numbered months, provides information about running a family child care business, state regulations, child development and activities.

New applicants must complete pre-service training requirements prior to licensure. The required training provides classes covering topics which include developmentally appropriate behavior guidance, developmentally appropriate CPR, first aid, abusive head trauma, sudden unexpected infant death and child passenger restraint training for those providing client transportation. The 2020 orientation class schedule is available on the Clay County Social Services website or by calling the county office.

Hellem said that potential applicants may hesitate to apply for an in-home child care license because of financial barriers.  She continued, “The Lakes and Prairies Community Action Partnership (CAPLP) may be able to provide financial assistance information for interested applicants.”  The social workers and intern emphasized the “great rapport” between their department and other Clay County departments including child protection, public health and law enforcement.

The Clay County Social Services department is located at 807 11th Street North in Moorhead.  The phone number for the department is 218-299-5200.

Julie Klier may be reached at julie.klier@co.clay.mn.us.

Karen Hellem may be reached at karen.hellem@co.clay.mn.us.

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