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Providers say pandemic shifts childcare needs in Northland

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ESKO, MN-- A big shift is happening in the Northland's childcare scene.

Data shows, four years ago our region needed 5,000 more childcare spots to fill the huge demand.

Now daycare providers tell us it's been tough trying to fill any open slots.

Mila Doty from Esko thought she was on the right path to opening up an in-home daycare.

"Going into it I thought I am going to fill up right away but for whatever reason, it's been crickets," said Doty.

Doty got licensed and was certified to care for 10 kids, five of them being her own children.

"I've been licensed since May."

Eight months later and the only thing missing is the families.

"I have been advertising for a while and currently all my spots are open," said Doty.

Doty adds she attended a Carlton County meeting in 2019 where she was told the need for childcare was great.

"I believe it was 640 unfilled spots at the time."

Now Doty is left with a new business and five open slots and she's not alone.

April Westman, owner of two Aunty's Child Care locations in Duluth said in her 11 years of providing childcare she's never had any issues filling up spaces within 24 hours of advertising.

"Even us with our history and reputation and good programs we've had troubles filling spots," said Westman.

Westman said they had high turnover at the start of the pandemic, almost half of their families left, they also laid off two teachers.

Westman believes the slow down stems from the pandemic.

"They're staying put, they're not moving, changing jobs or daycares."

Westman advises those who are thinking about starting an in-home daycare right now to get experience first.

"Maybe going to work at a center in the meantime might be a good idea because you're going to get tons of great experience working with kids, leadership, and guidance from people who have done this for a long time."

If you would like to contact Mila Doty email here at dotydaycare@gmail.com

If you would like to contact April Westman at auntyschildcare@gmail.com

Lyanne Valdez

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