Bright Beginnings

Bright Beginnings Initiative

The United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (UWNEMN) conducted a needs assessment in 2013 through Wilder Research to determine the needs and issues regarding child care in the region from parent, provider and employer perspectives. The assessment focused specifically on how families find and use child care, identified child care challenges and needs and explored early education options offered by our providers. Finally, the report demonstrated how UWNEMN could address the emerging issues surrounding local child care on the Iron Range.

The results showed that finding child care arrangement that has all the features that are important is either "very hard" or "somewhat hard" for the majority of families surveyed. Families indicated that the lack of flexible scheduling and lack of quality child care as their top difficulties. An alarming 50% of surveyed families stated the lack of child care affects their decision to continue living in Upper St.Louis or Itasca County.

Barriers to finding child care included waiting lists as long as one year, sometimes longer, especially for infant care, flexible scheduling to accommodate shift work as the hours worked by mining employees and other industries on the Iron Range, such as healthcare are nontraditional, and not enough formal early education options. 

Child care providers expressed concerns in meeting parents' needs due to  space limitations within their facilities or homes. Also, offering early childhood education has barriers for providers, as trainings to become "accredited" or "rated" are expensive and time intensive with most trainings held outside of the Iron Range area. In addition, finding additional dollars for updated equipment, learning toys, curriculum and educational materials is also a burden.

To aid in the above issues, UWNEMN is providing the following through our pilot program:

Free localized trainings: United Way partnered once again with the St.Louis County Family Service Collaborative, Northland Foundation, Mesabi Range Community College and Child Care Aware, to host it's second annual FREE early childhood/child care training on Saturday, April 16th. The focus of this year's training was Early Childhood Mental Health and Behaviors. Over 120 attendees heard from several different presenters throughout the day, had the opportunity to network during breakfast and lunch and gather valuable resources important to early childhood development and care. 

Incentives to achieve quality rating through Parent Aware: One of the main funding priorities for UWNEMN is Helping Children Succeed. We believe that every child deserves the opportunity for a strong start. Ninety percent of brain development happens by age five making the early years a critical time to have children in stimulating learning environments. Quality rated providers can offer structure, thoughtful curriculum and opportunities that prepare children for school. Children in Parent Aware rated programs have shown significant gains in kindergarten readiness measures such as expressive and receptive vocabulary, phonological awareness, print knowledge and social competence. This is one of the reasons UWNEMN is dedicated to helping our providers improve their early education quality. We also believe that all of our providers should be supported and rewarded for bringing out the potential in children they serve. As of January 2015, UWNEMN committed to offering financial awards to child care providers that achieve a rating through Parent Aware rating process. To date, 19 Iron Range child care providers have either signed on to become rated or achieved a rating with more on the way.

Award breakouts are:

  • 1 Star = $250
  • 2 Star = $500
  • 3 Star = $750
  • 4 Star = $1,000

The award levels can build upon each other, so if a provider chooses to obtain a 4 star rating all at once they would be eligible for a $2,500 scholarship award.

***Physical Expansion: Our final focus is the availability of child care on the Iron Range. We are currently piloting a child care expansion through an RFP process that would allow for additional openings within area child care sites. It would also give UWNEMN the opportunity to explore the financial need of all providers interested in expansion to determine how much additional funding is needed in the future. UWNEMN committed $50,000 to this project and through the support of three additonal $50,000 matched from the Northland Foundation,  the IRRRB, and St. Louis County has a total of $200,000 to invest. To date, 4 area child care providers have been awarded funding. A third application process is currently open through August 31, 2016. To view the child care expansion grant requirements and fill out an application please click here.

To view the full child care report and info graphics, please click on the links below:




Child Care Study Partners in Funding