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UM tool shows child care access challenges

BROWN COUNTY — A new University of Minnesota online tool showing quantity of child care and early childhood education ranks Brown County third among 87 counties.

Brown County families average 0.87 nearby child care slots per child, according to the site, ChildCareAccess.org. In addition, Brown County ranked fifth in overall family access to care.

The top 10 counties, besides Brown, ranked by overall family access to care were Red Lake, Norman, Cook, Lincoln, Brown, Traverse, Faribault, Blue Earth, Grant and Stevens. The bottom 10 counties were Isanti, Wright, Anoka, Carver, Washington, Sherburne, Hennepin, Scott, Dakota and Ramsey.

Brown County families” total cost of accessing full-time care averages $108 a week, 37th among 87 counties. The lowest-cost county is ranked first. The costs combine nearby provider’s weekly prices ($0 for public providers), plus travel costs based on drive times.

The New Ulm School District ranked 72nd among 332 districts with 0.69 slots per child. This includes all nearby slots from centers, licensed family child care, and public providers like Head Start and school-based prekindergarten.

The New Ulm District families’ child care costs averaged $114.50 a week and ranked 175th in 332 districts.

The Sleepy Eye District ranked 18th among 332 districts with 1.03 nearby slots per child, according to the report. Sleepy Eye District child care costs averaged $73.10 a week, 27th over 332 districts.

The Springfield District ranked 20th among 332 districts with 1.01 nearby slots per child. Springfield District costs averages $102.90 a week, 125th among 332 districts.

Nicollet County families average 0.58 nearby slots per child, 34th among 87 counties. Nicollet County families’ total cost of accessing full-time care averaged $143 a week, 69th in Minnesota.

Sibley County families average 0.53 nearby slots per child, 46th among 87 counties. The total cost of full-time care averages $103.70 a week, ranking 30th in Minnesota.

Renville County families average 0.64 nearby slots per child, 24th over 87 counties. Family full-time care averages $95.10 a week, 15th in Minnesota.

Redwood County families average 0.50 nearby slots per child, 54th among 87 counties. Redwood County families total cost of full-time care averages $102.30 a week, 25th in Minnesota.

The site maps each neighborhood in Minnesota, using data including how many families with young children live there and measuring local families’ access account for nearby providers, costs and quality.

The tool also provides community reports for each school district, county, state House district and state Senate district in Minnesota.

Researchers from the Carlson School of Management (CSOM) and college of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences measured access to care by examining the quantity, total cost (prices, travel times) and quality-ratings of nearby care.

“Many Minnesota families struggle to access and afford early child care and education for their children,” said Aaron Sojourner, CSOM associate professor and labor economist. “Our goal is to provide community leaders with accurate measures of families’ access in improving care. We developed this tool to help assess families’ access in multiple dimensions. They can get underneath the pain, self-diagnose the problems and develop tailored prescriptions to improve access.”

The research used U.S. Census Bureau data and early care and education provider locations.

For more information, visit www.childcareaccess.org.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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