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"We really need to work on getting affordable child care for all families," said Megan Brown, research associate for the Children's Defense Fund.

"Many families are spending almost one third of their income on child care," Brown said. "And the costs are even higher for families with multiple kids."

To that end, the fund has thrown its full support behind the Minnesota Children's Health Security Act. The act would "provide universal health care coverage" for all children in the state, according to a news release from the Children's Defense Fund.

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of children's health care.

In Minnesota's southern district which covers 20 counties, including Blue Earth, Nicollet, Faribault, Le Sueur and Waseca there about 3,000 different licensed child care providers, according to a report released by the Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network. Between Nicollet and Nike Huarache Blue And Black

by the Minnesota Department of Human Services for a family income of $40,000. In Nicollet County, typical day care costs average slightly less than Blue Earth County but are still considered unaffordable by the department.

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n In Blue Earth County, 12 percent of all children lived below the poverty line in 2005, a 33 Air Huarache Basketball percent increase from 2000. In Nicollet County, 8 percent of all children lived in poverty in 2005, which is a 14 percent increase from 2000.

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Blue Earth counties, 43 child care centers were closed in 2006. Of the remaining licensed centers, there are only about 4,000 vacancies. Few of those licensed centers have vacancies for infants and toddlers and even fewer accommodate non standard hours.

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And during Tuesday's presentation in Mankato by the Children's Defense Fund and Kids Count Minnesota, the numbers were telling:

With the reconfiguration and reformation of health care raging on both the state and federal level, health care for children has risen to the forefront of the debate.

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Blue Earth, Nicollet and surrounding counties have witnessed an increase of more than 50 percent in the number of children without health insurance. Statewide, 29 percent of all children younger than age 18 have not received a preventive medical visit in the past year and almost 60 percent do not have a regular doctor.

n In Blue Earth County, typical day care costs average somewhere between $5,000 and $6,500 annually well above the $4,000 considered affordable Nike Huarache Low Black

n In the south central Minnesota region, 5.4 percent of all children lacked any kind of medical insurance in 2004. That number constitutes a 54 percent increase from 2001.

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Uninsured kids up in region

Beyond child care, however, lies the problem Nike Air Huarache Black And Green

The bill would reconfigure Minnesota's health care system into something that resembles the public education system. Like public education, children would receive necessary medical coverage regardless of family income or family employment. Segments of the act have been passed as attachments to the health and human services budget, but the bill still needs more political favor to gain full passage.

To many families, it comes as no revelation that the costs involved with caring for children have become increasingly complex and difficult to budget.

"Health care is one of the biggest things we have to figure out as a society," said Carole Specktor, legislative affairs director for the Children's Defense Fund. "But let's take the kids out of the debate until we find out what will work best for everybody."

What emerges from the numbers is portrait of area families struggling to maintain adequate care for their children.

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According to the network's report, 32 percent of families surveyed in 2006 said child care costs are too high and 45 percent of surveyed families reported a shortage in child care.

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