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Caring for children

After reports in this past summer’s 2012 Minnesota Mortality Report Panel found 83 of the 86 deaths in licensed child-care facilities in Minnesota since 2002 happened in home daycares, Director of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson declared adjustments needed to be made.

Those adjustments came in the form of Jesson making 34 child care licensing change recommendations to the current Health and Human Services Legislative Committee stemming from the 2012 Minnesota Mortality Report Panel recommendations.

But more than 20 Crow Wing and Morrison County home care providers, community members and Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, came out to the Crow Wing County Highway Department Thursday night to object to many of Jesson’s conditions.

“I think it’s important we are proactive, not reactive to this situation and these recommendations,” said Kathy Stevens, vice president of Crow Wing County Licensed Family Child Care Association (CWCLFCCA) in her presentation to the attendees. “And I have to assume Jesson is serious about this having talked to legislative and the Health and Human Services.”

Stevens continued on through a powerpoint, going through each recommendation made by Jesson.

While Stevens said the efforts to reduce Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS) is understandable, many of the recommendations made my Jesson seem contradictory, confusing and not as helpful as intended to be.

“One child’s death is one too many,” said Stevens, with the room echoing the sentiment. “But there are so many things that are problematic with these recommendations it will really affect the way we can provide childcare, such an important asset in our community.”

While many recommendations revolved around safe sleeping space and checking on infants at timely intervals, cost changes would also hinder not only providers but how many children providers can care for.

Those in attendance became vocal with Jesson’s recommendation to “modify license capacity and adult to child ratios to be consistent with the best practice standards established by the National Resource Center for Health and Safety Child Care and Early Education’s ‘Caring for Our Children,’ third edition.”

The recommendation would require child care providers to have one adult per two children under 12 months, one adult per two children 13-23 months and one adult per three children 24-35 months. The current distribution is one adult to four children, with no more than two infants; or one adult per six children with no more than three infants and toddlers combined, Stevens said that it will dramatically cut into a providers income.

According to Stevens, the average weekly cost of child care in Brainerd totals $749.19 in a home with one infant at $127.84, one toddler at $123.15 and four preschool age at $123.80.

“Of that $749.19, if you have to have two other helpers at $8 an hour, that’s almost $400 you are taking out,” said Stevens to many people in agreeing. “Then you have to pay for your curriculum, insurance, workman’s comp and so on, you can’t survive on that.”

Stevens added in towns like Pierz and Long Prairie, where the cost of childcare is much lower at $580.47 and $564 respectively, it could force providers to no longer allow infants.

Another recommendation that would further hamper even the help a provider would be able to receive, Stevens said, is the recommendation to have the minimum age of helpers be moved from 13 years old to 16 years old.

“I like my 13-year-old helper,” said Stevens. “They are the ones that grew up with me and know my rules.

“At 16-years-old they want to get out and drive, go get a job at Costco for $11 an hour, they don’t want to be here. When they are 12, 13 and 14 years old, they are much more willing to play and help with the kids.

“How many families leave their 11, 12 and 13-year-olds home alone, but now I can’t have those 13-year-olds under my supervision helping? That really bugs me.”

Stevens ended the evening’s meeting with a recommendation of her own; to write a letter to legislature for not only the providers themselves, but for the families they are caring for, too, to try stop this.

“We are advocates for the families we take care of,” said Stevens. “And really we are advocates for our community, too. If families can’t get family childcare, they won’t be working, so it is in a full circle.

“We can speak out to this and have a voice on this issue.”

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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