Anoka County has created an online tool to help parents find and evaluate child-care providers in an effort to close the information gap many parents face in choosing safe care for their children.

The tool, announced Monday, uses mapping software to show locations for the county's 670 family child-care providers and provides some licensing history by linking to a state website.

"We want them to have as much public information as possible," said Evelyn Nelson, Anoka County's child-care licensing supervisor.

County officials acknowledge that the new tool ( is a work in progress and does not provide a complete licensing history for providers.

The data gaps are emblematic of the state's patchwork regulatory system for family, or in-home, child care. The state issues licenses for in-home providers, but counties carry out inspections and most of the regulatory activity.

As a result, the state's licensing website lists serious licensing actions over the past two years, but not inspection reports, complaints and most regulatory citations, which are issued and held by county licensing officials.

Anoka County regulators said they encourage parents to contact them for the more complete licensing history once the parents have narrowed their search to one or two providers, but said the county hopes to make the information available online in the future.

"We want to make sure we're able to provide information to our citizens when they want it and what's convenient for them," said Anoka County Commission chair Rhonda Sivarajah. "This is an initial stab at this.''

Brad Schrade • 612-673-4777