Assessing Minnesota Child Care Providers’ Resilience Throughout COVID-19

Research BriefCOVID-19Jan 19 2023

The child care sector in the United States has been one of the hardest hit industries by the COVID-19 pandemic.[i] Child care providers not only needed to adapt to changing demand for in-person services but also needed to be ready with staff and resources when families started to return. For many programs, temporary or permanent closures have been the reality, and staff shortages continue to be a significant challenge.[ii] Amidst this context, many programs have accrued financial debt in order to remain open and safely serve children.[iii]

We invited all licensed center and family child care providers and certified centers[1] in Minnesota to complete an online survey from November 2021 to February 2022 to better understand how these providers were faring at that point in the pandemic. The survey included a variety of topics, including closures, financial losses and financial aid, enrollment, professional development, and well-being. This brief summarizes key findings from the survey, as well as previous findings from the Peacetime Emergency Child Care Grant survey, which was administered in Summer 2020 to Minnesota Peacetime Emergency Child Care Grant applicants. We also discuss considerations for policymakers.


Key findings

  • Temporary or permanent closing due to COVID: Fifty-one percent of licensed centers, 49 percent of family child care providers, and 30 percent of certified center respondents reported closing either temporarily or permanently since March 2020.
    • Among licensed centers that have needed to close a classroom since March 2020, 43 percent were medium-sized centers.
  • Changes in revenue: Medium and large licensed centers were significantly more likely to report receiving “much less” revenue in 2020 compared to 2019 than family child care providers.
    • Licensed centers were significantly more likely to report that costs of doing business had increased compared to family child care providers.
  • Unrecovered financial losses: Center size was also a significant factor in whether a program was experiencing financial losses not covered by state or federal grants. Compared to small-sized licensed center respondents, medium-sized licensed center respondents were more likely to report financial losses not covered by state or federal grants.
    • Black providers across all settings were significantly more likely than their White counterparts to report experiencing financial losses not covered by state or federal grants.[2]
  • Use of personal funds for program costs: Almost 90 percent of family child care providers indicated using personal funds to cover program costs, compared to one-third of licensed centers and one-fifth of certified centers
  • Needed resources: Licensed and certified centers reported needing funds to recruit and retain qualified staff, and to pay staff during program closures. Family child care providers reported needing small funds for cleaning and replacement of supplies, along with temporary relief from some licensing regulations.
    • Providers in Greater Minnesota (counties excluding Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington) were more likely than metro-area providers to report lack of time and poor internet access as barriers to accessing virtual professional development.
    • Younger providers were significantly more likely to receive personal financial assistance than older providers.
  • Anxiety and mental health: Family child care providers were less likely to experience moderate anxiety than licensed center providers.
    • Multi-racial[3] providers were significantly more likely to report moderate anxiety than their White counterparts. All three provider types (licensed centers, family child care, and certified centers) scored in the “medium resiliency” category of the Brief Resilience Coping Skills questionnaire, indicating that they have several strategies for coping with stress.

Policy recommendations

Our findings reveal that demand for child care remains, but providers may need additional help navigating staffing shortages and financial losses to serve more families and maintain quality. We have used these findings to inform recommendations for policymakers which are highlighted here and discussed further in the Policy Recommendations section.

  1. When developing policies, consider the variety of needs for different types of programs and differences by geographic location. Policymakers should consider that policies to support the early care and education (ECE) sector need to be responsive to the different experiences of each provider type (licensed center, family child care, and certified center) and where in the state they are located. A single policy solution may not be equally effective for all ECE programs. Hearing directly from a wide variety of providers when developing policy solutions is critical prior to their development.
  2. Invest in mental health supports for providers. Our survey findings indicate that providers have high rates of moderate to severe anxiety, but they may have several strategies to cope with stress. Policymakers may be able to build on these strengths to offer or support the use of multi-faceted models of support for providers. Examples of research-based practices to reduce stress and increase providers’ self-efficacy are shared.
  3. Re-envision financing for early childhood education programs for long-term sustainability. Calls for financing reform for ECE are not new; however, the pandemic has exacerbated challenges in the field and offers an opportunity to take even incremental steps toward reforms that promote the long-term sustainability of the sector. Examples of this are highlighted.

Suggested citation

Ulmen, K., Tang, J., & Warner, M. (2023). Assessing Minnesota child care providers’ resilience throughout COVID-19. Child Trends.


[1] Note: In Minnesota, the Department of Human Services (DHS) oversees licensure of family child care and center-based programs. However, DHS has the authority to certify license-exempt programs (e.g., programs operated by a school or other organizations whose purpose is to provide child care services; Head Start; camps) that wish to accept child care subsidies.

[2] More research is needed to understand the reasons behind this finding, yet previous reports have found that job losses have disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx workers, particularly Black and Latina women. For some families, it may have made financial sense to pull children out of care while a parent/guardian was home. It is also possible that Black child care providers were not able to access financial aid to cover lost revenue as easily as others.

[3] Respondents could select more than one race. Individuals who selected more than one race were grouped together to form the “multi-racial” category.


[i] National Association for the Education of Young Children (2020, July 13). Holding on until help comes: A survey reveals child care’s fight to survive.

[ii] Weiland, C., Greenberg, E., Bassok, D., Markowitz, A., Guerrero Rosada, P., Luetmer, G., Abenavoli, R., Gomez, C., Johnson, A., Jones-Harden, B., Maier, M., McCormick, M., Morris, P., Nores, M., Phillips, D., & Snow, C. (2021). Historic crisis, historic opportunity: Using evidence to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on young children and early care and education programs. Education Policy Initiative at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and the Urban Institute.

[iii] National Association for the Education of Young Children (2020). Am I next? Sacrificing to stay open, child care providers face a bleak future without relief.