Advance TRF Childcare Publishes Strategic Supply Plan
In September, a group of community stakeholders met to initiate a four-month process of developing strategies to retain and increase childcare capacity in the Thief River Falls area. The planning process was facilitated by First Children’s Finance, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with regional offices in Iowa and Michigan. The organization works to stabilize, improve, and expand high-quality childcare businesses serving low- and moderate-income families. They also provide financing, business training, consulting, and help create partnerships that connect childcare businesses with the resources and expertise of the public and private sectors.
First Children’s Finance provided a gap analysis that provided a foundation for the plan. The analysis showed a shortage of approximately 357 spots for children (birth to five years old) in Pennington County. Twenty-eight percent of the spots needed are for infants and toddlers. Within the Thief River Falls School District 564 the gap is even larger at 593 spots. The average monthly cost of family childcare is $580 per child and the average monthly cost for center-based childcare is $772 per child.
After presenting the gap analysis, First Children’s Finance led the seventeen-member team through a brainstorming process. The team was asked to answer three important questions as a first step in developing the Childcare Strategic Supply Plan: (1) what resources exist in the community that could be useful to this group; (2) how can our community increase the number of high-quality childcare slots; and (3) how can we better support new and existing childcare providers.
The team began by brainstorming, narrowed down their top ideas, and then agreed on four goals to pursue. Each goal has been assigned to a team and team leader who will lead the effort of putting the goal into action. Goal 1, led by Michelle Landsverk (Advance Thief River), is to implement a public communication campaign to increase awareness of childcare as a desirable business. Goal 2, led by Mark Borseth (City of Thief River Falls and Digi-Key), is to expand existing and/or create a new childcare center through strategic business partnerships. Goal 3, led by Jim Retka (Northwest Regional Development Commission), is to identify potential locations and landlords willing to lease property to childcare providers (single family, childcare pod, or special family childcare). Goal 4, led by D’Anne Johnson (Inter-County Community Council), is to create an early educators support group network.
Additional team members include Maureen Hams (Tri-Valley Opportunity Council), Missy Okeson (Northwest Minnesota Foundation), Elizabeth Gerhart (Pennington County Social Services, Licensor), Jamie Danzel (Pennington County Social Services, Licensor), Lynn Balstad (Tri-Valley Opportunity Council), Natasha Stengrim (Child Care Aware, Wayfinder), Rachel Prudhomme (TRF City Council), Meg Kolden (Community Education School District 564), Michelle Westerman (School District 564, School Board), Katie Gunderson (Northwest Minnesota Foundation), Brian Carlson (Sanford Health Thief River Falls), Kim Schneider (Arctic Cat), and Vanessa VanDam (Thief River Falls Chamber of Commerce).
Michelle Landsverk, Director of Advance Thief River, is chairperson for the Advance TRF Childcare work. Individuals who would like to get involved in project implementation on any level are encouraged to contact Michelle directly by calling/texting 218-280-1755 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.