COMMUNITY CHILD CARE SOLUTIONS MEETING HELD FOR BENTON AND TAMA COUNTIES

Childcare is not just an issue for parents. In fact, Governor Reynolds recently created a Child Care Task Force to address the child care shortage and barrier to work, after the Governor’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board identified child care as the number one issue for the state’s economic recovery.

A recent study by the US Chamber of Commerce found that Iowa misses an estimated $935 million annually for the state’s economy. This number includes a $153 million annual loss in tax revenue as well as an annual loss to Iowa’s employers of $781 million on absences and employee turnover as a result of childcare breakdowns.  

According to Iowa’s Child Care Resource and Referral, the state has a potential shortfall of 361,677 child care slots and in the last five years, the state has lost 33% of its child care businesses.

Locally, Benton County has 4.3 children under age 12 for every one child care slot and in Tama County, there are 4.8 children for every one child care slot.

“I routinely hear from parents looking for child care and from businesses that are unable to hire and retain employees because they cannot find child care. ” said Erin Monaghan, director of Better Tomorrows Early Childhood Iowa.

On March 24th, around 25 community members from Benton and Tama counties met virtually to learn about the child care crisis and to discuss community based solutions. This event was co-hosted by Better Tomorrows Early Childhood Iowa, the Iowa Women’s Foundation and the Vinton Public Library.

Dawn Wiand, President/CEO of the Iowa Women’s Foundation and member of the governor’s Child Care Task Force, facilitated the meeting. “Through research and community conversations, the Iowa Women’s Foundation  (IWF) learned Iowa has a child care crisis and a workforce shortage.  Both of these issues are interdependent and must be addressed together.  To address these two issues, the IWF and its community partners established the Building Community Child Care Solutions collaborative. This collaborative is the only program of its kind in the state of Iowa. It is a network of 35 communities, working together to increase awareness and explore innovative ways to promote child care investments that support families, businesses and communities, both in the short and long term. The IWF is thrilled Benton and Tama Counties are two of the 35 communities in the collaborative.  Together, we are learning from each other, saving time, money and energy and providing collective intelligence and creativity to solve the child care crisis. “

Participants in the meeting identified potential solutions, identified existing resources and connections and to identified needed resources and connections.

Vinton resident and member of the Early Childhood Iowa State Board, Amy Edison, stated “I found it helpful to hear concerns from local community members regarding the issues of obtaining and sustaining childcare and I am excited about the collaborative efforts to come.”

Those in attendance broke into groups where they began working to develop three strategies:

  1. Building new and expanding existing child care centers.
  2. Maintaining current child care entrepreneurs and helping more people become entrepreneurs by starting an in-home registered child care business or child care center.
  3. Establish new or expand existing before and after school programs.

Greg Walston, Program Director with Benton County Extension shared, “After studying the statistics of childcare needs in our community, considering the positive impact quality childcare would have and talking with a few folks about the need, I would like to help in this effort to help our young families attain affordable childcare. I know it’s sometimes a hidden concern but I would like for the general public to have a greater awareness of the childcare shortage and work together to begin to solve this problem.”

Anyone interested in being part of the solution to increase accessibility and availability to child care in Benton and Tama counties is encouraged to contact Erin Monaghan at 319/214-1471 or director@bettertomorrowseci.org.

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