SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The latest conversation on the topic of child care took place at the Rotary Club of Downtown Sioux Falls. 

A question and answer session with Kerri Tietgen, Stacy Jones and Rana DeBoer highlighted challenges and the current situations families face with affordable and accessible childcare options in Sioux Falls as well as the concern it has become for families and local businesses.

Monday’s community discussion comes nearly two months after the Sioux Falls Child Care Collaborative released a 97-page report detailing the current problems and offering recommendations. 

DeBoer, the CVO of Volt Strategy and SFCC Coordinator, said action is not moving fast enough on child care. DeBoer was one of the leaders tasked with putting together the report and highlighted stats child care providers are facing with staffing and workforce. 

“This is a valid crisis,” said DeBoer, noting 90% of brain development happens by age 5. “We’re a growing community and growing a (child care provider) deficit. We are not moving fast enough.” 

DeBoer said there’s not enough listening happening on the issue. 

“It’s a complex issue and very tangled,” DeBoer said. “We need to continue to learn and listen.” 

DeBoer said there’s no unity in the industry and the business model is unsustainable. 

“The gap continues to grow,” DeBoer said. “It’s not slowing down.”

Rotarian Brienne Maner said Startup Sioux Falls has helped a few child care providers and seen growth happen. 

Both Maner and DeBoer said in-home child care providers are CEOs and entrepreneurs with their own business. 

Jones, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of the Sioux Empire, said there’s a lot of providers taking care of children right now. Jones said SFCC members are pushing to create an office of child and youth development and building legislative support. 

Tietgen, the CEO of EMBE, said the answers to the problem are in the room. She said a scholarship fund could help 20% to 30% of child care costs could make a big difference. 

When asked about how many workers would be gained if all the actions were taken in the SFCC report, DeBoer said that extra type of data could be found if an office of youth and child development was created. She called the report a framework that could built off by a full-time position.

Tietgen asked what would be the cost of a catastrophe and more people starting to leave the workforce more to provide child care.

Asked about state-funded preschool and how that relates to child care, DeBoer said it is all related – child care and early learning are related. Tietgen said there’s not enough preschool spots in the state for all the children. She pointed to the Kindergarten gap that many schools see from kids who had preschool and those who did not. 

“It’s another piece of the puzzle,” Tietgen said.

One of the first recommendations is creating a child and youth development office could happen at the state level, the county level or at the city level. 

Currently, the Sioux Falls Health Department only oversees in-home child care registrations and inspections within city limits, while the South Dakota Department of Social Services oversees child care financial assistance as well as state-registered, state-licensed and unregulated child care providers.      

South Dakota is one of a handful of states that does not have any state funding toward early childhood education or child care funding. 

In 2022, state lawmakers approved $100 million in federal funding for state-regulated childcare providers in South Dakota. In 2023, there was only one bill written involving the topic of child care and that bill was tabled. 

A recent WalletHub study highlighted by Gov. Kristi Noem’s social media account ranked South Dakota 37th in access to early education and 41st in resources and economic support.

Early childhood education is defined as formal and informal education from birth to age five. It’s often called early childhood education, preschool or pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) programs.

The South Dakota Department of Education and the state’s Department of Social Services studied pre-K education for children ages 3-5 this spring. The state’s population and birth rate continue to increase, which means the population of children under six is also growing.