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Is more daycare needed in Perham area? Inquiring minds want to know

Daycare spelled out in play letters with paper mother and child 1 / 2
HUB Project Coordinator Emily Dreye is acting as a laison2 / 2

First Children's Finance is undertaking a feasibility study to determine the extent of child care needs of Perham.

According to an analysis by the Minneapolis-based non-profit, there are presently 1,100 children within 30 miles of Perham who do not have care. Now, the First Children's Finance survey will attempt to find out exactly what is happening.

"These children could all be with their grandparents," said Emily Dreyer, the project coordinator of Perham's HUB project, who is also acting as a liason for the FCF survey.

Perham is an outstate community with a sizeable amount of industry requiring a large workforce. Tuffy's Pet Foods, Bongard's Creamery, Shearer's Snacks and Kenny's Candies are four of the largest industries in Perham. Perham Health, Arvig Communications and the Perham-Dent School District also have large workforces. While a certain percentage of the workforce lives in Perham, a portion of this workforce is known to gravitate to Perham from a radius of 40-50 miles.

"When we first started looking into daycare someone brought up First Children's Finance," Dreyer said. "They are the ones that did the feasibility type studies in Battle Lake, and they worked in New York Mills at the county offices there. They come in and they find partnerships, and they find different creative ways to make childcare more available."

According to Dreyer, First Children's Finance might train providers or provide them with resources. They might also create partnerships with different companies to subsidize care.

"I reached out to them to see what we could do," Dreyer said. "From there we applied, and we were accepted, and we are like one of four communities they are working with right now."

Children in need of daycare are typically under 5 years of age. At age 5, children would typically begin attending kindergarten. These children might also have after-school supervision, according to Dreyer, but many do not.

"That is why Boys and Girls Clubs are so important, because they take young children after school," Dreyer said.

Perham employers are being asked to send the surveys to their employees in order understand where the needs are and who has them.

"This is just trying to get more information from employees and parents to find out what they are doing for care right now," Dreyer said. "Is there a need for sick care? Is there a need for night care? All of those things we'll hopefully learn after the survey is done. It's actually a two-year process to go through."

Dreyer is working with First Children's Finance because of her connection with the HUB, a project which has received a commitment of state legislative funding. The HUB would be located in the former Perham Senior High, which was left empty last spring after the 2017-2018 school year wrapped up. While the oldest portion of the 131,000 square-foot school was built in 1916, other portions are much newer. Eventually, the Boys and Girls Club in Perham, which are presently meeting in the Perham Living Building, will be one of the groups moving to the HUB.

"I did this on behalf of HUB," Dreyer said. "We had been talking about daycare, and we did not want to make a lot of room for daycare if it wasn't going to be a need."

Childcare is a difficult business, according to Dreyer.

"I also hope we can get providers more resources and help so we can retain the ones we do have," Dreyer said. "Daycare has a very high burnout rate."

Dreyer has hopes that people in the community will come to realize daycare is a business and it should be treated like a business.

"It's not just the mom sitting at home hanging out with her kids. There is a lot more to it than that."

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