Kayla Klein is the director of Early Learner South Dakota, one of the partners in the new South Dakota Child Care Business Collaborative. The collaborative will bring businesses across the state together to address the current child care crisis. Klein chatted with Sioux Falls Simplified to share the details.

Answers are edited for length and clarity. All responses are quotes from Klein.

How did you ‘get smart’ about childcare – i.e. what in your background or in your own research/activities prepared you for your job with Early Learner South Dakota and the business collaborative?

I was actually born in a town of 500 in East River. There was no childcare center or in-home. My mom ran an in-home licensed care facility.

  • She’s always been in childcare. She’s been my inspiration.

I got the opportunity right out of college to manage a nonprofit child care center. It was brand new, the first of its kind in Lead-Deadwood.

During my time at the childcare center is when I started advocating, and I realized how much parents were struggling to pay the fees we were charging. I was quite frankly embarrassed at how (little) we were paying our staff and knew something had to change in the field.

I started advocating, and it's just in my blood now.

We’re all about simplicity here. Can you describe what this new collaborative will focus on in 10 words or less?

Educating, problem solving and finding long-term sustainable solutions.

What’s something people most often misunderstand about child care in South Dakota? (And, if you could politely correct them, what would you say?)

The first thing I would say is child care is a broken business model that cannot be fixed in a normal corporate business fashion.

Second of all, we don’t have enough providers for the children We have in South Dakota now.

  • We don’t have any state funding that goes to childcare.

Another big one is that the child care crisis is costing businesses lost earnings of $146 million on an annual basis (according to a January 2022 report from Ready Nation).

If you were opening your own daycare center in South Dakota, what would you name it?

Bright Futures Child Development Center

What can people expect from your first meeting coming up Dec. 8 in Sioux Falls?

First we’re going to give a landscape of what’s currently happening in South Dakota, going to then talk about child care as a business model.

The exciting part that I think most people are looking forward to is finding and talking about the solutions that are currently happening ... and some ideas for long-term solutions.

Then, finally, we’ll allow the folks who come together to meet and talk about action steps moving forward.

Are there any Sioux Falls businesses that have already signed up to participate?

We have about 24 registered. Avera and Sanford are both attending, as well as Daktronics, the Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative, and the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment.

There are also quite a few smaller businesses and a couple of economic development folks.

It's worth noting the meeting is in Sioux Falls, but it's for the entire East River area. It’s beyond Sioux Falls, for sure, that’s invited.

What’s your advice for someone who wants to learn more about the collaborative or to get involved?

People are more than welcome to email info@earlylearnersd.org or go to our Early Learner South Dakota website.

Anything else you want the people of Sioux Falls to know about you, your job or this new collaborative?

The biggest thing I would say is we are focusing specifically on businesses that are outside of the child care field – not that we don't want the two to collaborate at some point – just not now.