Simplified: A number of city councilors on Tuesday expressed interest in helping the Helpline Center create an app that would give parents an easy way to see which childcare providers in the state have openings.

Why it matters

  • The Regulatory Oversight Committee – a group of councilors chaired by Councilor Alex Jensen – met Tuesday afternoon to get a more in-depth look at the childcare crisis in Sioux Falls.
  • The recent almost-closure of Apple Tree childcare centers added a sense of urgency and importance to the meeting. At one point, Jensen remarked, "We should've done this five years ago," in the context of talking about developing the app to share childcare openings.
  • The Helpline Center shared its work on developing an app in which providers can share openings, and parents can get real-time information. Additionally, Michelle Erpenbach, representing the Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative, shared a number of other specific ways the city could be a part of solving the ongoing crisis.
"At this point, we can't wait," Erpenbach said. "We have to, as a city, as a community, we have to come up with solutions of our own."

Tell me more

Helpline Center Vice President of Program Development Betsy Schuster told councilors on Tuesday that an app has been part of the shared vision between the center and the childcare collaborative since last year.

  • The organization has been working with a developer to figure out what it would cost to pull together – a number Schuster said she'll be able to share with councilors later this month.

There's also the challenge of getting childcare providers to use the app, which would mean building trust, Schuster added.

"If they don't use it, it's not helpful, so we really want to make sure that provider voice is front and center of what we create," she said, adding that if funding falls into place, the app could be ready by July.

Councilor Alex Jensen said he'd like to see councilors meet again in a couple of weeks to talk about whether the city can help provide funding to support the development of this app.

"This is one of those areas where my colleagues and I might want to invest," Jensen said.

What happens next?

The Regulatory Oversight Committee will meet again on Jan. 16, and Jensen said the group will plan to meet every other week due to the urgency of the childcare needs in Sioux Falls.

Want more reporting on the childcare crisis?

Here's a roundup of recent coverage:

Why Sioux Falls parents can’t afford to work — or stay home
It costs more in one year to send your kid to a childcare center in Sioux Falls than it would to send them to a South Dakota state university.
Sioux Falls has options to solve its childcare crisis. Will the city’s elected leaders help?
Elected officials are divided on how to help – and if the city even has a role to play at all.
Why Sioux Falls is looking to businesses for help solving the childcare crisis
Leaders of a community initiative to find solutions say there’s one group who will need to play a bigger role in finding solutions: local businesses.
How Rapid City is working to solve its childcare crisis
A Rapid City foundation is laying the groundwork for a program where parents only pay one third of the cost of childcare.