Four different state agencies currently oversee programs for young children in Minnesota: the Department of Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Public Safety and the Department of Health. During the 2023 legislative session, a proposal for a new state agency was passed to consolidate those programs under one jurisdiction: the Minnesota Department of Children, Youth and Families.
Veteran early childhood care provider Amanda Schillinger has worked with children and families for more than three decades. She enjoys her work but as director of Pumpkin Patch Child Care and Learning Center in Burnsville, her job entails a lot of paperwork including permits, scholarships and contracts for 140 babies, toddlers and children at two locations. She has less time to spend with the children and more time spent on administration.
Schillinger supports the change and testified before legislators. “It’s also going to help families find their resources,” she said. “Even paying for child care isn’t under one department. That falls into two different areas as well. So kind of getting us all organized so that we can find our answers and find our needs and find our supports in one place instead of having to go so far to look for things.”
Getting everybody involved and working together is what Erin Bailey, assistant commissioner of the Children’s Cabinet, is in charge of as the co-chair of the steering committee for the new department’s implementation.
Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, believes that sharpened focus will bring higher visibility to early care and learning issues. As the chair of the Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee, he also hopes the new department will mean better spending and accountability.
“These are very fragmented programs,” Pinto said. “And they are pretty much all — not pretty much they are all deeply underfunded and it’s not nearly serving the families and kids that they’re supposed to serve.”
(Source: Minnesota Public Radio)