Watonwan County Child Care partners with St. James EDA to make CDA licensing easier in wake of early childcare labor shortage

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

Watonwan County Child Care—through a grant with the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation–recently started up a revolving loan fund that makes it easier for staff within Watonwan County Child Care to achieve their Child Development Associate (CDA) credentials.

"We currently have four staff that have completed this program and become qualified teachers at our St. James Community Child Care Center," said Community Education Director Sue Harris. "We are very excited about this program and it has made staffing our licensed program so much easier. We have had a labor shortage for teacher qualified staff and this program has really made a difference in our center."

Back in the spring of 2019, Watonwan County received a $20,000 Child Care Start-Up and Expansion Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund (SMIF). A county-wide committee worked on the expansion and support of child care, many new efforts were started.

With that grant, St. James Community Child Care expanded 35 spots, and massive renovations were made to comply with licensure codes. The community, doubled with SMIF grant dollars, raised $59,000 to complete the renovations, which were completed in the fall of 2019. 

The CDA credential revolving loan fund is administered through the St. James EDA and provides funding for the Watonwan County child care workforce to obtain their CDA credentials.

The CDA credential is a requirement to work as a teacher or assistant teacher in a child care center. The CDA credential also qualifies in-home providers for a higher rating in the state quality rating scale which provides the ability to access additional funding sources.

"This program has really enabled us to give back to those childcare providers who want to further their education and remain committed to providing quality daycare for St. James and surrounding communities," said EDA Director Andrea Gehrke. "It is a great program that works nicely with additional grants from the state of Minnesota and allows for a substantial investment in a much-needed service in the area."

The loan program removes the startup cost barrier for providers and center workforce and aims to increase the number of staff and providers in the county that have this credential.

The program provides a loan for actual expenses relating to the cost of obtaining the CDA credential including the course and books as well as testing, up to $800 per applicant.

The Family Child Care Start-Up Forgivable Loan Program provides an incentive to start a new licensed family child care service in Watonwan County.

The program provides a matching forgivable loan for actual expenses relating to the cost of opening a family child care business in Watonwan County, up to $1,000 per provider.