Sioux Falls child care options in ‘crisis mode’, leaders warn

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Responding to the child care crisis in Sioux Falls has become increasingly difficult in recent years with current labor needs, demands for high quality care, and an affordability gap for families. .

That was the message from Monday’s Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary chat with Superintendent Jane Stavem, EmBe CEO Kerri Tietgen and Rebecca Wimmer, who is the Community Partnerships and After-School Programs Coordinator for the Sioux Falls School District. .

“If our teachers don’t come to work, nobody can go to work,” Tietgen said of the need for childcare staff.

Childcare costs

Childcare has always been expensive, Tietgen said, including about 15 years ago when she was looking for a preschool for her own children. Then it was “unbelievably expensive,” she said, noting that it cost around $1,800 a month for her two children to attend preschool.

Costs haven’t changed much since then, Tietgen said, due to community partnerships that have kept costs affordable; but he is still in crisis mode.

Sioux Falls School District Superintendent Jane Stavem leads a conversation on child care issues with Kerri Tietgen, CEO of EmBe, and Rebecca Wimmer, Community Partnerships and Afterschool Programs Coordinator for the Sioux School District Falls on Monday, August 1, 2022, at a Rotary club meet at the Holiday Inn Sioux Falls - City Center.

“We’re at a point right now with child care that we’re in crisis,” she said. “I don’t use those words lightly, but we sure are. Keeping rates affordable for families while covering our costs and expenses for child care providers is in crisis mode.

After:Study finds $636 million affordability gap for child care in South Dakota and Sioux Falls

There is also a demand for better care and better staff, Wimmer said. Providing on-site child care in workplaces has its benefits, but locally, employers who have opted to provide this in recent years have backed out of the business, she noted.

Caring for school-aged children is also important for students because it provides students with opportunities they might not have elsewhere, leads to better academic performance, better social-emotional skills, better physical health, higher graduation rates and a lower incidence of crime, Wimmer said.

The problem is access, Wimmer said, because better-off families can afford after-school care, while lower-income families can’t afford it and fall further behind. Community organizations have worked on the issue in recent years despite their silos, Wimmer said.

Rebecca Wimmer, community partnerships and after-school programs coordinator for the Sioux Falls School District, speaks about the child care crisis Monday, August 1, 2022, during a Rotary Club meeting at the Holiday Inn Sioux Falls - City Center.

Funding for child care comes from parent and guardian tuition fees, philanthropic donations, and state and federal funds, Stavem said, asking Tietgen and Wimmer about the best ways to fund programs in the future.

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Tietgen noted that there is a misconception that all child care centers are supported by federal and state funding, but that is not the case; at EmBe, fees are covered by tuition and philanthropic donations, she said.

Illustrate the need

Wimmer said affordable child care should be 7% of a family’s income, which is affordable for some families in the community. Low-income families can receive subsidies to pay for at least some of their childcare, Wimmer said, but there’s a struggle with families in the ‘gap’ whose incomes are too high to receive. subsidies, she explained.

For example, a family with two working adults and two children who earn a total of $60,000 a year earns too much to receive subsidies, but will have about $17,000 in child care costs for their children, Wimmer said. , noting that this is well over 7% of this family’s income.

Sioux Falls School District Superintendent Jane Stavem leads a conversation on the child care crisis Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, during a Rotary Club meeting at the Holiday Inn Sioux Falls - City Center.

Families in this situation may choose to leave the workforce to care for their children, Wimmer explained. She noted earlier that in South Dakota, 84% of children’s parents are in the workforce, so if parents leave work to care for their children, Wimmer said that could equate to 50,000 people quitting their jobs statewide and 11,000 people in Sioux Falls alone.

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“How are we going to close this gap if this is the direction we are going?” Wimmer said.

“They’re not just babysitters”

Childcare officials have also spoken out against the perception of childcare as “babysitting,” as Stavem put it.

Investing in child care, supporting working families and valuing the work of child care providers are Tietgen’s three wishes to Sioux Falls following the Rotary meeting, she said. . Wimmer asked Rotarians to work together as a community on child care issues and to spend time in the community as well.

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“We need to uplift (child care providers) and understand that they are not just babysitters, but are important teachers involved in the development of your children and in the development of the future. of this community,” Tietgen said.

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