A new childcare collaborative initiative is launching this fall to help ease the Sioux Falls area childcare crisis, an issue local advocates have voiced concerns about for years.
Earlier in 2021, the new Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative, which is facilitated by Sioux Falls Thrive, released a report confirming Sioux Falls and its working families are in a childcare crisis, as care becomes more and more expensive and inaccessible.
They discovered the gap in affordability is as much as $636 million per year, based on the more than 54,000 children who rely on childcare. And while wage increases are needed to bring childcare workers in line with starting wages in other industries, that would raise the cost of childcare, which parents and providers alone can’t absorb, childcare officials have said.
By September 2021, the group introduced a program to use the gig economy to supply substitute teachers and education helpers in the childcare and early childhood education industry by way of a $200,000 Bush Foundation grant. The program provides access to part-time contract employees who can fill in when regular childcare workers are unavailable.
The next step for the group is to announce a new hire on Oct. 5 in a new six-month position of “child care initiative coordinator.” Michelle Erpenbach, president of Sioux Falls Thrive, said the yet-to-be-named new hire will report to the collaborative and its leadership team, and Thrive will host the position.
Erpenbach said the idea for the new position came from Mayor Paul TenHaken, who pulled together various business partners − Forward Sioux Falls, Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, Sioux Falls Development Foundation, Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, and Sioux Empire United Way − to fund the position.
The new hire will serve as a consultant, contractor and coordinator, Erpenbach said, while championing childcare in the community and building teams. They will also provide research and analysis of current and future workforce and economic issues related to the local childcare industry.
Their expected outcomes include building a sense of local urgency and understanding of the industry; research best practices and solutions to the childcare crisis; developing policy recommendations for adoption by local and state government officials; and creating a workforce development blueprint for sustainable support for childcare industry workers.
A childcare community discussion is also set for 5-6:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the EmBe, at 300 W. 11th Street in downtown Sioux Falls. TenHaken and childcare industry representatives will discuss new opportunities for statewide collaborative efforts at the discussion.
A tour of the Boys & Girls Club Childcare Center is also available ahead of the discussion at 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. the same day, at 2001 E. 8th Street.
The new Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative is an “ad-hoc” group of people who have interest or expertise in childcare in the city, Erpenbach said, explaining they meet online every month and there are no membership fees to join the group.
The collaborative includes nearly 50 people including childcare providers, nonprofit leaders, elected officials and other members from the following groups and organizations:
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sioux Empire
Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment
Department of Social Services Child Care Services
DSS Office of Licensing & Accreditation
Family Child Care Professionals of South Dakota
Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota
Peace Lutheran Church
Sioux Empire United Way
Sioux Falls School District
South Dakota Afterschool Network
South Dakota Department of Education
South Dakota Legislature
South Dakota Parent Connection, Inc.
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Southeast Technical College
Tea Area School District
Truks – n – Trykes
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative to bring on new coordinator Oct. 5