Help to provide

With a shortage in child care in Otter Tail County, there is help available for those looking to become licensed child care providers

Many young families in Otter Tail County are facing a shortage for childcare. Options for working parents, when it comes to the care of their young children, are limited. In Otter Tail County there are 131 licensed family child care providers, with 10 licensed centers.

However, there may be another choice for parents or others wanting to own their own business — becoming a child care provider.

There are many resources available to those questioning a move into the child care field and help to get them started. There are also grant funds that can help get future provider’s homes ready or purchase the items needed for care. These resources and consultants can help set up a child care business and provide support for licensing and operation.

First step – contact a licensor

If someone is interested in opening a child care business, the first step is to review the Department of Human Services guide to becoming a licensed child care provider which can be found at this link:

Once the person has had a chance to review the guide, contact Lisa Spangler, Otter Tail County family child care licensor at 218-998-8206 or by e-mail at The county licensor will schedule a time to complete orientation training to provide additional information regarding the application process and answer any questions one may have.


Next steps – startup grants, scholarships,

child care assistance

Kelli Rohrer, Child Care Aware coordinator, who works with startup grants, scholarships and child care assistance, stated Child Care Aware will help those interested in Otter Tail County with opening and sustaining their child care business.

Rohrer explained that early learning scholarship funds can be used by families to access care through family child care and center-based programs. In addition, programs can access grants to purchase equipment and materials to get their home up to code, for educational toys or other items needed for care.

Rohrer can be reached at



development support 

Marianne Smith, professional development advisor, helps programs access training, higher education and continuing professional development. In addition to working with anyone trying to access training for foster care or child care, Smith works with programs improving and sustaining their quality through Parent Aware.

Parent Aware is Minnesota’s quality rating system for child care which is a federally mandated program. Preschools, family child care and centers voluntarily join Parent Aware to work with a quality coach and professional development advisor to ensure the program is prepared for children to enter kindergarten.

Educators can earn either a one-, two-, three- or four-star rating.

Smith can be reached at


How to join Parent Aware?

Once a provider has an active license with good standing, and is serving at least one child in care, an educator can reach out to Alicia Bauman, Parent Aware recruiter, to receive an application and additional information. She is a former family child care educator and speaks highly of the program.

“I knew from the beginning, I couldn’t do this alone,” Bauman said. “My background was in marketing and journalism, and I had no clue where to start, other than knowing I needed to provide care for our families children, and help fill the need in our community.”

She continued, “My professional development advisor and quality coach were there for me from day one.”

Educators choosing to join, go above and beyond licensing requirements and will earn a Parent Aware star rating when they’ve provided evidence of meeting indicators of best practices in early care and education. A study done by Think Small found that Parent Aware rated programs are twice as likely to remain in business as those not participating in Parent Aware.

Programs, once rated, can receive up to $6,000 in grants, if two rounds of building quality are completed before the full-rating process. Building quality is 20 hours of coaching and modeling of activities to help enrich a program’s practices.


Quality coaching and support through Parent Aware

 Lauren Anderson, Parent Aware quality coach, offers support in Otter Tail and Wilkin counties.

“My job as a Parent Aware quality coach is to support early childhood educators, and assist them in providing quality care to the families that they serve,” Anderson said. “Having previously been a family child care educator myself in this area, I strive to be a relatable support person for you and your program. No matter where you are at in your educator journey, we can work together to improve best practices and prepare children for kindergarten.”

To find a Parent Aware rated program, one can search

For additional training and support contact Kari Strattelman with First Children’s Finance for free business coaching or visit She can be reached at 218-236-1147, by e-mail at

Like Child Care Aware Northwest or Parent Aware on Facebook.

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