Jeremy Olson writes about children and families, and is an overscheduled father of two. His blog tackles the best and worst of parenting, families, health and love. He wants to hear from you - what's going on in your house?
In response to Sunday's article on deaths in child care, several readers wondered whether an increase in deaths might simply be proportionate to an increase in children in care. Thank you readers! This is an astute question that wasn't adequately addressed by Sunday's article.
The simple answer? No. There is no increase in child care utilization which would explain the increase in deaths -- a tally that nearly doubled when comparing 2002-2006 with 2007-2011. In fact, there is some evidence that child care usage either remained level during that time period or even slightly declined -- given the joblessness and recession of the later half of the last century.
Series co-writer Brad Schrade checked his notebook, and said the number of licensed family child cares in operation has actually dropped by a couple thousand over the past decade.
Some of the best Minnesota data on child care utilization comes from Wilder Research. Its latest child care usage report compared survey results from 2009 and 2004.
In both years, roughly 76 percent of families used some form of care for children ages 12 and younger -- including informal care by relatives, friends or neighbors. The survey found that licensed family child care was the primary child care arrangement for 25 percent of children ages 0-2 in 2009, and that center-based care was the primary arrangement for another 25 percent. Informal, unlicensed care remained the most common arrangement for children that young in 2009.
There certainly are more families and children in Minnesota now than a few years ago. The American Community Survey estimated about 337,000 children ages 0 to 5 in Minnesota in 2005, compared to 356,000 children in the state in 2010. That roughly 6 percent increase in the state's child population is not near enough to explain the increase in deaths, though.
More stories to come soon on this vexing issue.