Each provider will receive a grant of $1,500 to implement their business plan.

Three local businesswomen have been selected to participate in a new program for family child care providers in Watonwan and Brown Counties. Through a competitive process, Kami Knaack, Debbie Haycraft, and Linette Piercy, along with three other providers from New Ulm, were chosen for the Quality Family Child Care Business Improvement Project. They will work individually, as a group, and in collaboration with advisors to tackle their most critical business issues.

Each provider will receive a grant of $1,500 to implement their business plan.

In 2012, Minnesota experienced a net loss of 355 child care programs. As both entrepreneurs and educators, family child care providers are faced with a unique and complex set of challenges when it comes to owning and operating their small business. In rural areas like Brown and Watonwan Counties, where children are more likely to be poor than children in urban areas, sustaining a quality child care business is especially demanding.

“Many of these parents cannot afford to pay for their children to attend preschool on top of paying for daycare, so I want to be able to provide the children with the tools they will need to be ready to enter kindergarten,” said Kami Knaack, a selected provider from St. James.

In rural communities where there may be less access to a child care center or preschool program, the bulk of school readiness is in the hands of family child care providers. “We do have access in St. James to really good preschools, but not everyone can afford them or find a way to get their children to preschool if they work out of town,” said Linette Piercy, who has been in the business for over twenty years. At a recent school board meeting, Piercy spoke up about the need for the school district to work with family providers. “I reiterated that home daycares want the children in their care to excel, and we need to all be on the same page.”  

Minnesota has made new and significant investments in quality early care and education. With scholarships for low-income children and the Parent Aware rating system rolling out to Brown and Watonwan Counties this year and next, the Business Improvement Project ensures that those investments in children and the child care businesses tasked with serving them are sound.

Thanks to generous funding from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, all licensed family child care providers in Brown and Watonwan Counties have had access to free training, consulting, and mentoring through a partnership between First Children’s Finance and Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association.

All of the providers chosen for the Family Child Care Business Improvement Project are dedicated to both quality and service to low-income or special needs children. “Quality improvement is important for me because it is not just an end goal, but it is something that will be a continual process,” said Knaack. “It will be knowing that our children, our future, will have and continue to have a safe learning environment.”

“I believe that in order to best meet the needs of the children in my care that I, too, need to be a student,” said Debbie Haycraft, a St. James provider who has been a licensed family child care provider for 23 years. “Anytime you work with a group of individuals who are also working towards the same goal, there is so much potential to learn from each other.”

“The Business Improvement Project we’ve partnered on with First Children’s Finance has proven to be an extremely valuable resource to the region’s child care providers,” said Tim Penny, President of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. “We know their efforts will contribute to our goal of helping more children be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten.”