The initial meeting for the child care shortage in Watonwan County was held last week.
In previous months, the group had gotten together to apply for a childcare grant for Watonwan County.  In March they were awarded hat grant.  This meeting was the first forum for moving forward after the grant.
Representatives from Butterfield, Madelia, and St. James were on hand to brain storm ideas about what the biggest need in child care was is each of the three cities.  
The need is great in Watonwan County, as St. James has a waiting list for babies that is about a year and a half out.  Butterfield only has one small child care operating, and Madelia’s child care programs are turning away people almost daily because they are full.  
The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation led the presentation of the meeting.  Former Minnesota U.S. Representative Tim Penny opened the presentation talking about the importance of child care and working together as a community.  Penny is the president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.  
Rae Jean Hansen spoke next, and gave a presentation on how the county can stay within the stipulations of the grant, as well as emphasizing that the goal needs to be opening up more high quality spots, as we want the best for our children.  
The representatives from the cities each met with themselves, and came up with ideas on how their particular city could create more high quality slots.  The ideas were put on bulletin boards and arranges in groups.  
After discussing all of the ideas, each city chose one idea to focus on that they thought gave them the best chance of improving their child care situation.
Butterfield decided that the need for more school aged slots was the most important thing for their town.  With many of the parents working past school hours, the kids that are in school need a place to go after school gets out.
St. James saw a partnership between the public and private sector as something they could explore to improve the child care situation in the town.  With many businesses employing parents of young children, it could be their best interest to help with the child care need in order to give an added benefit to their employees.
The next step in the process is for each of the cities to meet again individually in the next few weeks,  The $10,000 grant must be used by May 31, 2020.