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Creating a Sustainability Plan

Developing and implementing a task force within the community to take on sustainability in child care is an important first step.

United Way of Central Minnesota, along with many area businesses and organizations, have been working to bring all voices with an interest in child care to the table.

By bringing together stakeholders who have multiple perspectives and a common interest in developing and maintaining quality child care we will help drive engagement and investment in helping to determine the best path forward for the community.

We are eager to engage unique voices to hear diverse perspectives from our community.

Child Care Response Fund

Families and businesses agree that inadequate child care, both in terms of availability and reliability, is the single greatest problem they face in Central Minnesota.

For parents, finding child care options that meet their budget and schedule is a barrier to entering the workforce. While employers are facing a staffing shortage as valuable employees elect to stay home to avoid the childcare crisis.

The Central Minnesota Child Care Response Fund will support families in finding care and inform businesses and policymakers about the important role child care plays in facilitating the economic recovery and sustaining the economy in Central Minnesota.


Increased Availability

  • Pay for provider training fees for those looking to further their education and training
  • Short-term financial assistance for ALICE families in order to access child care.
  • Short-term provider assistance

Long-Term Solutions

  • Identify opportunities for new, larger, as well as renovated facilities
  • Emulate successfully, emerging opportunities occurring across the country
  • Gain parental support & resources to support early childhood development
  • Invest in quality child care and Pre-K education to ensure success throughout school and beyond
  • In collaboration with the Initiative Foundation, create a Shared Service Network to support administrative and other functions of child care providers in a collaborative way


This is a community-wide problem that needs a community-wide solution, and we need you. Join our Child Care Response Fund committee, donate to support child care in Central Minnesota, or learn more by visiting our website.

Child Care Response Fund Advisory Council

Our Child Care Response Fund Advisory Council includes key partners including:

  • Public, private, or parochial school personnel

  • Current child care providers

  • City officials and/or Tribal Executive Councils*

  • Non-profit organizations

  • Established community development groups or committees

  • Other interested businesses

  • Social service and/or pediatric health providers

  • Realtors*

  • Local trade unions*

  • Parents*

  • Professionals such as CPAs, architects, and insurance agents with knowledge of the child care field*

*Currently not a member of the advisory council but UWCM is actively recruiting these roles. If you are interested please contact us


What Can Your Business do?

Not every business can afford to open its own center, especially smaller companies, but there are other ways employers can contribute to creating a stable environment for child care providers: “reserving” slots with a local provider, contributing funds or space or other resources to a community project, or providing a child care allowance to employees.


Child Care Start-up with Business and Community Collaboration

When businesses and community stakeholders join together to support a child care start-up, each party can contribute time, money, expertise and/or other assets toward the shared goal. Businesses can contribute necessary start-up funds, space, technology, human resources, or other assets to help the project move forward. County officials, community economic development organizations, extension offices, and other partners can help with zoning, business planning, and research. Child care stakeholders can contribute expertise to navigate administrative and regulatory requirements and knowledge needed to get the facility staffed and running. In this scenario, decision-making and management responsibilities are shared among the partners.


  • Collaborative efforts can capitalize on more assets, expertise, and public appeal.
  • These partnerships bring more care to communities as a whole.

On-site Child Care

Businesses could choose to create space within their campus or grounds to open a child care program onsite. In this scenario, businesses often supply space, utilities, and back-office functions to support child care programming. Businesses may gain an edge in attracting and retaining employees by providing on-site childcare. Child care stakeholders can contribute expertise to navigate administrative and regulatory requirements and knowledge needed to get the facility staffed and running. Third-party child care agencies could be brought in to run the child care site.


  • Research shows businesses with on-site child care have higher employee retention and engagement, more women in management roles, and strong workplace culture. Companies like Patagonia, Cisco, and JPMorgan have even shown ROIs of 90-115%.


  • Child care is a highly regulated industry with slim profit margins. Businesses entertaining on-site child care must be fully aware that the benefits gleaned from the project will come from employee retention and productivity and not necessarily excess revenue from the child care program.

Where is this being done or explored in Minnesota?


Employer Purchase of Child Care Slots

Businesses can contract directly with child care programs to purchase slots of care dedicated to serving their employees. Businesses and child care programs would agree on the number of slots, the rate of pay, and eligibility of use.


  • Similar to on-site child care


  • Contracts for care ensure an agreed upon amount of child care slots will always be available to the business, which also provides stable revenue for the child care program. However, this model does not allow for parent choice (the values parents place on care programs based on a variety of contextual family factors).

Where is this being done?


Shared Services Alliance

A shared services alliance allows individual child care programs to pool resources, share staff, and reduce administrative burden. Utilizing technology, back-office functions like tuition billing and receiving can be automated and centralized. Child care programs continue to operate as individual small businesses but enjoy added layers of support and efficiencies.


  • Over time child care programs save time and money that can be dedicated back into quality programming.

  • Networked child care programs in Wisconsin have had a lower closure rate during the pandemic.

  • Networks can help to facilitate community conversations around opportunities and challenges facing the child care sector and parents.


Technology can play a key role in creating deep administrative efficiencies through networks. Child care alliances work best when staffed with experienced individuals with a deep understanding of the child care sector. Additionally, an alliance thrives when local stakeholders are also involved and able to contribute resources towards the whole. A child care network can also serve as a mechanism to purchase child care slots amongst a larger pool of programs providing greater choice for parents.

Where is this being done?


Wisconsin Early Education Shared Service Network

Financing Strategies

Financing Strategies

For businesses wanting to ensure sustainability of child care in their community, assessment of financing should be done at both the individual business and the community levels.

Questions for your business to consider include:

  • How much can my business afford to invest in this effort in the coming years?
  • Should I subsidize my employees’ child care as an added benefit? If so, at what cost (i.e. 10% of care, 50% of care, up to a certain dollar amount per month or year)?
  • Will my business contract with local child care programs to secure slots and subsidize those slots for some of my employees?

Questions for communities to consider include:

  • What local businesses are willing to invest in this plan?
    • United Way of Central Minnesota may be able to help you identify other interested partners in the community.
  • Is there an already existing community development committee or department to partner with?
  • Is grant funding available for which the community can apply to support child care sustainability efforts?
    • Federal, state, and local elected officials and their staff may be able to assist in identifying potential sources of funding for your community.
    • Many local and regional philanthropic organizations have identified child care as a priority for their giving.
  • Are there businesses, individuals, or other community partners that may be able to provide additional sources of support?
    • Consider the need for building space (for services or storage), administrative support, and items such as kitchen equipment or electronics. Current child care providers and your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency can offer insight into what current needs are as well as what would be helpful to sustain existing and new child care.


It is important to not only focus on the number of child care spots available in a community, but that the type of care that is offered matches the needs of the community. For example, the child care gap is higher in Minnesota’s rural areas (which includes Central Minnesota) than it is in its urban areas; while licensed group child care facilities can care for a greater number of children than a family child care provider, rural areas may not be able to support a large group child care center in one location and instead may need to focus on family child care providers which can support children and their families across a broader geographic reach. Other areas of need which are critical to consider when assessing how to increase child care capacity in your community:

  • Supports for children with disabilities: Child care shortages disproportionately impact families with children with disabilities. National Survey of Child Health data demonstrates that parents of children with disabilities are three times more likely to experience job disruptions because of child care issues. 
  • Non-traditional hours of care: Most child care programs operate within the standard, Monday-Friday work week, but many employers operate outside these hours. Consider how you can support providers in expanding their offerings.
  • Dual language learning: Minnesota communities are diverse, but children whose primary language is not English may lack some of the support they need. Consider how you can sponsor dual language training for child care providers in your community, or help multilingual community members open child care programs, or become early childhood educators.
  • Care which supports and reflects children’s culture: Culture is a key aspect of a family’s identity; similarly to language development, programs need training on how to support family cultural identity and practices.
  • Care which supports families experiencing housing, food, and/or economic insecurity:  Consider how you can use your network to build these connections between these organizations, like United Way, and child care programs.
  • Trauma-informed care: The pandemic highlighted the need for mental health services for all, including very young children. Trauma-informed care is an approach to services that recognizes and responds to the needs of children and families who experienced trauma.
Take the Next Step






  • Learn about what communities across the state are doing to support child care sustainability; many states and communities are becoming more creative with utilization of public and private funding to develop and implement child care sustainability plans. Two examples include:
    • Renville County, Minnesota, where one goal was to partner with the county to create and promote a forgivable loan fund to help start new child care businesses, and to engage community partners to raise donations for teacher training and employee scholarships.
    • Fairmont, Minnesota, established a goal to increase quality slots over the course of one year by creating a $150,000 fund to incentivize new providers, invest in quality for existing providers, and create access to training and professional development.


  • Talk with employees who are parents of small children - ask about their current child care situation, preferences for care, challenges, opportunities, and what support they need to find and maintain quality care for their child(ren).
  • Search Child Care Finder or directories for Certified or Licensed Child Care Providers in Minnesota to see who is currently providing care in your community.

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