Barker Child Development Center Update

Barker Child Development Center from Egg Harbor Road

Door County YMCA Considers Tough Fiscal Decision on Childcare Center - The Barker Child Development Center May Extend Closure


June 8, 2020 — Non-profit boards make tough decisions. On June 4th, the Door County YMCA board discussed suspending operations at the Barker Child Development Center, but keeping the door open to collaboration with other companies and organizations.

The Door County YMCA's childcare program, located at the Barker Child Development Center at 1743 Egg Harbor Road in Sturgeon Bay, assists working families with their need for safe, quality care for their children. Since the inception of the program in 2012, the Center served six week old babies through children four years of age. Since opening, almost all four year-olds have left the YMCA’s care to enroll in free all day 4K through the school system. The loss of four year-olds, combined with the advent of the Affordable Care Health Insurance program, has resulted in the Barker Childcare Development Center incurring significant financial losses despite operating at full capacity. 

“This is a difficult discussion,” said Tom Beerntsen, Chief Executive Officer, Door County YMCA. “The need for affordable, quality childcare is a pressing community need in cities large and small across the country and we know there is a need locally. There is truly a national crisis in the area of childcare. It is estimated that 2 million parents make career sacrifices due to problems with childcare.”

In recent years the YMCA in Door County has enjoyed a growing membership (reaching over 9,000 earlier this year) and, realizing the importance of daycare in the community, the Board of Directors continued to approve subsidizing the ongoing operations of the childcare program. 

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the general operation of the YMCA program will be challenged. “We expect a decline in membership and program income with expenses rising to meet the new demands of operating in a post COVID-19 world,” said Beerntsen. “To remain solvent and in business, the YMCA has had to make, and will continue to make, difficult staffing and program decisions.”

Simply raising tuition at the childcare center doesn’t work. Not only does it add an increased expense for working families, about one-third of the current enrollment is fee-assisted through the County with State funding. Increases in the tuition would not result in additional revenue, as fee assistance would not increase with a tuition increase.

The Door County YMCA has tried to develop an operational model which is sustainable through added efficiencies in operation, solicitation of charitable contributions and financial subsidies and higher tuition fees for participating children. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the YMCA Board and staff have anticipated the ongoing and significant losses at the Barker Child Development Center and spent considerable time and energy working to cultivate and secure support. They have reached out to past donors, local government entities, industrial leaders, foundations and sought grant funding. These efforts have not been productive to the extent necessary to offset the minimum projected losses.

The Board meets again in two weeks to discuss the matter further. “We need to be fiscally responsible,” said Ryan Hoernke, Chair of the Board. “We need to consider the health of the entire Door County YMCA organization. We are open to discussing a long-term solution with members of the community.” YMCA officials indicate it will require significant financial support over multiple years to alter the suspension of services.

Named in honor of philanthropist Ruth Barker, the Barker Child Development Center is a group-licensed center for children aged 6 weeks to 12 years old serving nearly 100 children on a daily basis. The center has attained a YoungStar 4-Star rating and provides an important connection to the Y with peace of mind for working families.

For more information or with questions, contact: Tom Beerntsen, Chief Executive Officer, by email ( or phone (920.743.4949).


Locations: Sturgeon Bay Center
Category: News