Child Care Regulation Modernization
In 2021, the Minnesota legislature passed legislation and allocated federal funding to support child care regulation modernization projects for both licensed family child care and child care centers (MN Laws 2021, First Special Session, Chapter 7, Article 2, sections 75 and 81). The regulation modernization projects support the development of three components: key indicator systems for abbreviated inspections; risk-based tiered violation systems; and revised licensing standards.
Alternative child care licensing models
The Department of Human Services, in consultation with counties, child care providers, and other relevant stakeholders, is reviewing child care models that are not currently in state statutes, including standards related to age, group size, and capacity. This project is considering whether any models could address the state’s child care needs while protecting children’s safety, health, and well-being and make recommendations for implementing the models that meet these criteria. DHS will report recommendations to the legislature by January 1, 2023.
Early Childhood Governance and Financing Grant
The State of Minnesota received an Early Childhood Governance and Financing Grant through New Venture Fund. This three-year grant is supporting several projects to strengthen the financing and governance of early childhood programs in Minnesota, including analysis of Minnesota’s Children’s Fiscal Map to highlight spending on early childhood programs; pilot initiatives with partners in tribal communities around embedding language revitalization in early childhood programs; and evaluating impacts of the federal relief dollars Minnesota has invested in early childhood.
Preschool Development Grant
Minnesota’s Preschool Development Birth through Five grant is a partnership of the Minnesota Departments of Education, Health, Human Services, and the Children’s Cabinet to improve early childhood systems across the state. The three-year, $26.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services supports pregnant families and families with children age 5 and younger. The work began with a community needs assessment (PDF) and development of a strategic plan (summary) (PDF), both of which will be updated before the conclusion of the grant in December 2023. The strategic plan for the grant identified initiatives that are now being implemented, including:
Child Care Wayfinder: A one-stop navigation network for building and growing programs
People who want to start, sustain, or expand a licensed child care center or family child care program can now connect with Child Care Wayfinder, a statewide network designed to help new or existing providers find the information and resources they need. The program's website offers information and connection to resources, and the statewide network of navigators can support people through the process of starting, sustaining, or expanding a program.
Empower to Educate
Empower to Educate is a workforce development program available through Child Care Aware of Minnesota. This program is open to individuals interested in beginning a career in early care and education. Empower to Educate offers personalized advice and support, free training, help with searching for a job, and a hiring bonus.
Supporting Family, Friend, and Neighbor child care providers
Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) child care providers offer legal non-licensed child care to many families. FFN providers are a frequent choice of care for parents with infants and toddlers, parents in diverse cultural and ethnic communities, and parents working non-standard hour jobs. To better support this group of providers, the Minnesota Department of Human Services recently directed $1 million in federal CARES Act resources to state and local agencies working with FFN providers. The funding will help agencies develop new FFN networks and strengthen existing ones, offer training and materials to providers, and connect providers to services and resources. You can learn about the organizations providing these supports to FFN providers in this grantee overview, and learn more about this funding opportunity in the FAQ document.
Grow Your Own Early Childhood Educator Pilot Programs
The Early Learning Services division in the Minnesota Department of Education, through the Preschool Development Grant, is contracting with seven government organizations to support Grow Your Own Early Childhood Educator Pilot Programs. The organizations will develop or expand a Grow Your Own Program to help participants gain the education requirements needed to enter or advance in the field of early childhood education. The organizations will share what works well to inform future Grow Your Own opportunities in Minnesota focused on the early childhood workforce.
Child Care Shared Services Pilot
Shared services is a strategy to help smaller early care and education programs, often specifically family child care programs, achieve some of the benefits of scale by sharing some services or functions, such as purchasing materials, accounting or other office functions, substitutes, etc. The Minnesota Department of Human Services is supporting a pilot of this strategy through grants to two organizations that are testing different sets of shared services.
Early Care and Education Governance Report
At the direction of the Minnesota Legislature, the Minnesota Children’s Cabinet contracted with the State’s Management Analysis and Development team to create the Early Care and Education Governance Report, which was published in January 2022. The report documents options for early childhood governance structures, explaining benefits and drawbacks of each option and sharing examples from other states. The Children’s Cabinet, in partnership with several State agencies, is working on next steps to apply learnings from this report.
Minnesota Business Vitality Council child care sprint
Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development convenes the Minnesota Business Vitality Council to explore economic opportunities for Minnesota. Work groups complete six month project sprints on topics selected by the Council. The Council selected early care and education as a topic for a recent sprint; the work group’s final report highlights the challenges facing the early care and education field from an economic development perspective and offers recommendations.
Parent Aware Racial Equity Action Plan and equity engagement
The 2021 Minnesota Legislature directed the Department of Human Services (DHS) to identify barriers that prevent racially, ethnically, culturally, and geographically diverse child care programs/providers from pursuing a Parent Aware Rating, and solutions to overcome them. To accomplish that, this project reached out to and respectfully engaged child care providers and other key stakeholders, and reported results that DHS used for the Legislative Report due March 1, 2022.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation in partnership with DHS supported the facilitation of an effort to create a Racial Equity Action Plan for Parent Aware. The project included many community partners in a year-long process that overlapped with the work of the Equity Engagement. The completion of this report marks the beginning, not the end, of the work to make Parent Aware a more racially equitable system for Minnesota’s children, families, and child care providers. Through this effort, DHS and its community partners and experts have the opportunity to make significant progress on racial equity goals and provide better and more comprehensive support for children, families, and communities that need it the most. The Parent Aware Racial Equity Action Plan represents a foundation and starting roadmap for carrying out this effort.
The plan and report can be found here.
The Task Force’s final report and timeline are due to the Legislature by February 1, 2023.
First Children’s Finance Early Care and Education Business Collaboratory
The Early Care and Education Business Collaboratory is an innovative national collaboration to support state efforts to coordinate their local early care and education systems. The Collaboratory, launched in the fall of 2020, offers connections, ideas, innovations, and investment and implementation strategies for states working to strengthen their local systems. Over the course of three years, First Children’s Finance is convening 14 states, including Minnesota, to provide learning opportunities, investment, and technical support as these teams address local child care business issues, share best practices and ideas with their counterparts across the country, and implement effective, locally-tailored strategies for a sustainable early care and education system.