By Scott Marquardt, Southwest Initiative Foundation
We’ve been deeply involved in the child care sector at Southwest Initiative Foundation, and the child care shortage is an issue that is always on my mind. This spring, more than 240 rural child care providers attended the sold-out Kids First Conference.
Being in the room with these professionals affirmed why our work in this area is so important. I am grateful to our amazing conference partners at United Community Action Partnership, Prairie 5 Community Action Council, Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council, and Child Care & Nutrition, Inc. for delivering this incredible event. Also, a shout-out to Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel, one of our Employer Resource Network® member employers, for being such an excellent event venue.
The conference included a full schedule of training, but it was also a chance to care for our caregivers—to build up these professionals who have the critical job of keeping our children safe and nurtured each day. They do it with limited resources and growing mental health challenges among both children and their at-home caregivers. Showing appreciation for these professionals is one of our key priorities at the foundation.
Access to child care is one of the top economic development issues in our region. Parents face long waiting lists to secure a child care spot, rely on friends and family, and may miss work when they don’t have consistent child care. To keep our strong regional economy, it takes community-led solutions to the child care crisis. Southwest Initiative Foundation has been proudly supporting community planning, public policy, project investment and technical assistance, public relations and appreciation, and professional development.
Child and early care professionals are critical to economic mobility. They allow primary caregivers to work and support their families. They help children with learning and development of lifelong skills. They help ensure employers can attract and retain talent. They have a direct impact on the quality of life in our communities.
Child care is just one area of Southwest Initiative Foundation’s work. I am committed to Grow Our Own, our strategy to ensure all southwest Minnesota children and families can access opportunities. We need a regional economy that works for all, so that we have economic prosperity for all families.
I’ve called southwest Minnesota home for 23 years and am excited to see collaboration and innovation moving our communities forward. Our team will continue connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities. It’s our mission, and we need you to keep making it happen.
Kids First Conference offers child care providers training close to home
There has never been a more urgent time to invest in our region’s child care professionals. Investing in professional development and wellbeing for our child care professionals is a critical priority for SWIF. We are grateful for the impact that these amazing educators and leaders have on our children, their families, and the employers throughout our region. Read more about the Kids First Conference