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Children gathered in a circle outside, MN is facing a child care crisis.

Nicole is a dental hygienist living in Central Minnesota. Her husband Jason is in the Army and currently deployed in Syria, leaving Nicole alone to care for their two-year-old son. 

As a military family, they qualify for low-cost child care at the local development center. That doesn’t mean much — Nicole’s son has been shuffled through the waitlist for over 15 months. She’s desperate to secure child care and return to work, but every daycare is at capacity. What is Nicole supposed to do?

Currently, thousands of families across Central Minnesota are facing a child care crisis, just like Nicole’s. Since the start of the pandemic, the child care deficit has increased nearly 21%, from 4,400 slots to 5,317. Let’s talk about what this means and why it matters.


The term “child care crisis” refers to a situation in which there is a shortage of affordable, high-quality child care options available for families. In Central Minnesota, it’s increasingly prevalent. 

Both families and businesses across our community agree that inadequate child care, in terms of availability and reliability, is the single most significant problem they face.


Multiple factors are contributing to this crisis, including: 

  • Affordability — Child care can be expensive, especially for those seeking full-time care for multiple children. This makes it nearly impossible for families to afford the care they need. 
  • Availability — The entire country is facing a lack of available child care options, as well as providers. This adds to the challenge for families to find adequate and accessible care.
  • COVID-19 — The pandemic exacerbated the child care crisis across the country. Many centers and providers were forced to close or reduce capacity, leading to a shortage of child care options for families. 



For parents in Central Minnesota, finding a child care solution that fits their budget and schedule becomes a barrier to entering the workforce. This is especially true for women, who disproportionately take on caregiving responsibilities when their family cannot find adequate child care.

Without that care, thousands of families in our community cannot work, making poverty an increasing reality. According to data, 24% of parents surveyed across Central Minnesota have withdrawn from the workforce or declined employment due to child care arrangements. 

Here’s why this affects our entire community: 

  • Economy — In order to thrive, our local economy needs a stable and active workforce. This is impossible without accessible child care. 
  • Education — A lack of high-quality child care can negatively impact children’s development. Without consistent and nurturing care, children in Central Minnesota cannot fulfill their cognitive, social, and emotional capabilities, all of which are essential to prepare them for future success in school and beyond.
  • Businesses — Without child care, businesses face the costly impact of employee absenteeism and turnover. This negative impact spans nearly every industry, challenging companies and their operations across the community.


United Way of Central Minnesota is dedicated to increasing quality child care, educating and training the workforce, and raising families out of poverty. You can support these efforts and drive immediate action, change, and support within our community. 


In 2020, United Way of Central Minnesota began addressing the critical shortage of child careTestimonial from single mother in Central MN 230105_UW_ChildCareCrisis_1200x1200_V3 by creating the Child Care Response Fund. With the goal of stabilizing the urgent child care situation, the fund has already benefited many children in the community, families in need, our current and future workforce, and even individuals searching for career opportunities in child care. 

Families facing challenges covering child care expenses can access funds to bridge the temporary need that would otherwise disrupt their lives. In 2021, this fund provided subsidies to obtain or maintain child care to over 70 Central Minnesota families

A donation to the Child Care Response Fund can make a positive difference in your community by helping to cover child care expenses and keeping children in safe, reliable settings with supportive adults. 

donate now


Central Minnesota is very fortunate to have passionate community members, just like you, who are dedicated to overcoming this crisis. Together, they have formed an advisory committee to help guide conversations and efforts surrounding our community’s lack of child care. The group is composed of industry experts, business owners, healthcare workers, providers, nonprofit agencies, elected officials, school district employees, and dozens more. 

You can improve the child care crisis in our community by sharing your time and talents. From planning events to serving on a committee, there are endless ways for you to get involved and help further United Way of Central Minnesota’s mission.

Interested in joining a committee?  email alexis lutgen

Change doesn’t happen on its own. While United Way of Central Minnesota is committed to mobilizing the caring power of our community to address the child care crisis, our community is stronger when we’re working together. To live better, we must LIVE UNITED. 



Raise Your Hand  Learn more about the child care crisis and how to get involved. Get in touch 

Published on Jan 23, 2023 9:40:42 AM

Topics: Join the Cause, Volunteer