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Rep. Patricia Mueller: Working locally to fix childcare statewide

With the Legislature being past committee deadlines and most committees having finished their work, my time is freed up to think about issues and concerns in our community. I’ve discovered that one of my favorite things about being an elected official is the ability to turn conversations with constituents about important issues into real policy change.

A few weeks ago, I had a great conversation with Austin City Council Member Oballa Oballa about concerns around our childcare system. To tackle this real need, I started my research by reading the Family Child Care Task Force recommendations from 2019. After many months of work, the Family Child Care Task Force issued recommendations to the legislature on how to make the childcare system in this state function better for both families and providers. Some of the administrative recommendations that I found particularly compelling included streamlining licensing, updating licensing standards, eliminating unnecessary paperwork, and allowing forms to be stored and transmitted electronically. We could also provide funding for forgivable loans, microloans, and grants for childcare providers and providing high school and higher education pathways to train and credential future providers, to encourage more people to get into the field and encourage existing providers to stay.

All of these recommendations cannot move forward without input from licensors and providers to ensure the reforms we implement actually work. This aligns with another important recommendation to create a Family Child Care Training Advisory Committee which would be tasked with providing recommendations to the Department of Human Services on family childcare training requirements, which would include members from diverse cultural communities and have a majority of the membership as licensed family childcare providers.

One of the most innovative ideas shared in the taskforce report is the possibility of creating legislation to develop a risk-based, data-driven, tiered violation system with corresponding enforcement mechanisms that are appropriate to the risk presented by a violation. This type of system has been successfully implemented in other states like Washington and Oklahoma. A tiered violation system would provide flexibility for the inspector and in the inspection. As a childcare provider continues to comply and build a trusted reputation, inspectors honor those efforts by adjusting the number and length of inspections. This type of legislation rewards childcare providers that are working hard to keep children healthy and safe.

What I have learned so far is that these reforms could be incredibly important steps toward removing barriers for people to enter the childcare profession and for those who want to continue in the profession.

The process of writing a bill that offers practical help and solutions for childcare takes time and will require the input of many people from the community. If you would like to be involved in this issue, I would encourage you to contact me by emailing Rep.Patricia.Mueller@house.mn. I look forward to hearing from constituents on this issue and getting good work done within the childcare system!