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Blackduck leaders search for childcare answers

BLACKDUCK -- Whether it was the need for more providers or the need for more affordable options, childcare was the word on the street in Blackduck Monday.

Northwest Minnesota Foundation Vice President for Programs Karen White examines some of the data from a recent survey during a community meeting about childcare on Monday. (Jordan Shearer | The American)
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BLACKDUCK -- Whether it was the need for more providers or the need for more affordable options, childcare was the word on the street in Blackduck Monday.

That’s because the Blackduck Area Coalition for Child Care held a public meeting Monday night in the high school to explore more childcare options for area residents. During the meeting, government leaders, local day care providers and representatives from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation spoke about current struggles and possible solutions regarding childcare.

“It’s not just a family issue or a parent issue, and it’s not just a provider issue. It’s a community issue, and it has ripple effects,” Northwest Minnesota Foundation Vice President for Programs Karen White said.

Part of the discussion included the results from a recent survey in which area residents had been asked several questions about childcare options in Blackduck. Although there were only around 15 people at Monday’s meeting, there were almost 100 responses to the survey.

Of the surveys submitted, 65 were from Anderson Fabrics employees and 29 were from the general public.


According to Blackduck City Administrator Christina Regas, Anderson Fabrics is one of the largest employers in the Blackduck area. The business hires more than 300 full-time employees. For prospective, less than 800 residents live in Blackduck.

The need for more providers may not be the main issue at all, based on the discussion. Instead, at least part of the issue hinges on the cost of childcare and whether parents are willing to pay for it.

“Most of our issues seem to be that people don’t want to pay for daycare,” Blackduck child-care provider Jenna Freeman said. “Almost all of us have an opening, and people don’t want to pay for it.”  

That sentiment was mirrored, to some degree, in the survey results. One of the questions asked respondents what barriers exist for people needing childcare in Blackduck. The highest number of respondents, 48, said there was not enough childcare options. The next highest number of respondents, 37, said the cost of childcare was too high.  

Another one of the issues may not be the lack of childcare providers but rather the hours those providers are able to service their clients. A second question on the survey asked what childcare options would help the respondents’ situations. The highest number of respondents, 16, said extended hours would help. The next highest number of respondents, 14, said they wished there was financial help for parents needing childcare.

There were several suggestions discussed during the meeting to help parents overcome those barriers, although none of them were discussed at length. One idea was for the school to host some sort of summer program. Another was to host several daycare providers in one building to consolidate costs and assist one another when needed. Yet another suggestion was to encourage Anderson Fabrics employees to use their flexible spending accounts toward childcare needs.

That option, however, wouldn’t help the families who aren’t associated with Anderson Fabrics. That fact was accentuated when a few of the providers explained that only a handful of the children the providers care for are connected to Anderson Fabrics employees.

Beltrami County Commissioner Tim Sumner, who also attended the event, said he would try to help as much as possible at the county level, such as helping work through red tape issues childcare providers may have. He also offered to pass comments and concerns along to representatives at the state level.  


“As I travel around, I constantly hear childcare is a huge issue,” Sumner said. “I’m willing to help in any way that I can.”

Additional help may also come in the form of a state grant for which the city, with the help of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, is applying. If Blackduck were to be awarded the grant, the city could receive anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000 to put toward various childcare resources.

Regas said the comments and notes from Monday’s meeting would be incorporated in the grant application, the results of which are expected to be announced later this year.


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