It's a shortage and major cause for concern.
That's what community leaders and family and center providers from around southeastern Minnesota were saying Tuesday.
They gathered at the Wood Lake Meeting Center to discuss possible solutions to the child care shortage impacting so many in our area.
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation hosted the meeting in partnership with First Children's Finance and Families First of Minnesota.
Tuesday's meeting was to learn about strategies to address the child care shortage across the region.
"Minnesota has seen a decline in family child care over the last couple of years, a precipitous decline." said First Children's Finance Business Development Manager Jeff Andrews.
The lack of child care across the country today has become more of a crisis rather than just a shortage. Some are describing it as a market failure.
"Families and those looking to get care are seeing higher and higher investments for that care. At the same time we know our providers are struggling to make ends meet in many cases," said Andrews. "So it's a highly complex business."
First Children's Finance just completed an analysis that showed a potential need of more than 8,800 slots within the 20 county region of southeastern Minnesota.
Of those counties, Mower County shows the greatest potential need of more than 1,100 slots, followed by Olmsted county with more than 1,000 slots.
The severe lack in child care availability in recent years has lead to some families waiting to have additional children, or even forcing one parent to leave the work force.
"I'm in Early Childhood Education and my husband's a teacher," said Elizabeth Mangan, Child Care Aware Coordinator with Families First of Minnesota. "We know how to utilize resources, we knew what to try, and who to go to. We have a big network of friends, we both have big families and we were stuck. I was one moment away, or he was, of not being able to join or stay in the workforce."
Some solutions discussed Tuesday included partnership work, which means working with area groups.
In some cases that is the emerging of partnerships with faith communities or businesses where either place is offering space to a child care center.
Participants at Tuesday's meeting were encouraged to think outside the box to look for solutions that would work well for child care in their communities, but this discussion is just one piece of the puzzle.