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Revealing local child care access challenges - MessAge Media: Local

Revealing local child care access challenges

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Posted: Friday, March 15, 2019 5:00 am

Finding access to child care and early childhood education services is a challenge across Minnesota. Aitkin County is no exception; it ranks 23 among 87 counties statewide in overall access to child care, according to the University of Minnesota (UMN).  

UMN researchers developed a new online tool aimed at showing accurate measures of families’ access to child care in and across communities. It also provides community reports for every school district and county.

The site, ChildCareAccess.org, maps each neighborhood in the state, using data about how many families with young children live there and showing measures of local families’ access to child care, taking into account nearby providers, costs and quality. A family is considered to have greater access to child care if there are more slots near home, fewer children near those slots, lower prices and travel times, and more of the child care is highly rated.

AITKIN COUNTY STATS

About 650 children (under the age of five) live in 590 families in Aitkin County. Aitkin County ranks 53 over 87 counties for average child care slots per child, with an average of 0.5 nearby child care slots per child including centers, licensed family child care and public providers like Head Start and school-based prekindergarten.

County-wide, the total cost of accessing full-time child care averages $105 per week. While this ranks fairly well compared to the statewide average of $197, more than half of the families in the county have less quality access to child care than the state average. Aitkin County families pay 13 percent more for access to highly-rated child care, compared to 35 percent more paid statewide. Highly-rated slots are considered to be those in centers or licensed family care (rated three or four stars in Parent Aware), and in public providers.

Aitkin County is lacking child care centers, as 67 percent of overall slots near families are licensed family child care providers, and 32 percent are public providers.

AITKIN SCHOOL DISTRICT

There are about 420 children (under the age of 5) who live with 360 families in the Aitkin School District, ranking it 237 over 332 districts for average nearby slots per child.

The total cost for accessing full-time care averages $127 per week in the district, which is in line with average weekly costs in greater Minnesota. Sixty percent of Aitkin district families have worse quality access to child care than the state average. A majority of slots near families in this district are licensed family care providers. Only two percent of slots account for child care centers, compared to the statewide average of 47 percent.

MCGREGOR SCHOOL DISTRICT

There are about 190 children (under the age of 5) who live with 180 families in the McGregor School District, ranking it 135 over 332 districts for average nearby slots per child.

The total cost for accessing full-time care averages $89 per week, which is lower than average weekly costs throughout greater Minnesota. About 53 percent of McGregor district families have worse quality access to child care than the state average. About half of the slots near families in this district are licensed family care, and the other half are public providers. There are no child care centers in McGregor district.

HILL CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT

There are about 80 children (under the age of 5) who live with 80 families in the Hill City School District, ranking 92 over 332 districts for average nearby slots per child.

The total cost for accessing full-time care averages $42 per week, which is significantly lower than average weekly costs statewide and throughout greater Minnesota. About 40 percent of families in this district have worse quality access than the state average. About half of the slots near families in this district are licensed family care, and the other half are public providers. There are no child care centers in Hill City district.

By examining local families’ access to child care, the UMN hopes this new tool will help to inform local leadership decisions about where and how to invest in improving area child care.

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