Carroll County groups join forces to address childcare needs
Officials in Carroll County are teaming up to address a lack of access to high-quality childcare and early learning services. The Early Learning Alliance of Carroll County is seeking input from childcare providers and members of the community regarding the current challenges and opportunities they have in providing and accessing services.
Jake Adams, executive director of the Carroll County Economic Development Corp., said the effort is in response to a recent report from Early Learning Indiana that ranked Carroll County 91st in the state in the percent of children able to be served with high-quality care.
Adams told Inside INdiana Business efforts to address the gap in childcare options began in earnest last year.
“We’ve seen over the last year in Carroll County some really high-profile closings of childcare facilities,” he said. “We didn’t really know what that impact was going to be. And then, Early Learning Indiana came out with their report…and it was a bit shocking to see where we stood.”
Early Learning Indiana’s 2022 annual update, titled “Closing the Gap,” said only 2.2% of children in Carroll County were able to be served with high-quality childcare. Only Switzerland County had a lower ranking.
The Early Learning Alliance of Carroll County is comprised of organizations, nonprofits, churches, schools and others to create what Adams calls a clearinghouse for the conversation of childcare.
Adams said step one for the alliance is to get a gauge on the need for childcare throughout the county.
“We needed a comprehensive understanding of how big the concern was and where the challenges were. And so our first step is to just get input from the community…and it doesn’t have to be be anyone with children. If you’re a grandma and you have grandchildren, we want you to provide your input. If you’re an aunt who maybe watches your nephew and niece on Tuesdays because of a late shift, we want your input too.”
The coalition is also seeking feedback from providers on what kinds of barriers they’re facing, such as regulations, funding and labor.
Adams emphasized the importance of improving the county’s childcare offerings not only for the benefit of children and parents, but also the overall economic vitality of the county.
“We think it’s a basic function of economics for our community, and if there isn’t childcare, you really start to erode at your ability to create job growth, wage growth,” he said. “So, [employees are] just not going to be as, as as efficient or as impactful for their employer if they’ve got to leave early or they’ve got to come in late because of their hours.”
The alliance says its future goals include providing resources to families seeking childcare, supporting current providers with financial and educational programming, and ultimately increasing access and availability for childcare throughout the county.
While it will take an undetermined amount of time to analyze all of the data compiled through the alliance’s efforts, Adams said smaller initiatives will be put into place to help in the short-term.
“We’re going to launch some babysitting classes here this summer [as] an impactful way for high school students just to be better at being a babysitter, for our homes and our families to feel safe about knowing that they went through a course taught by registered nurses and dietitians, and health care professionals, knowing that we’re having safe childcare in our community.”
In addition to finding out how to help existing, licensed childcare providers overcome their own challenges, the alliance is seeking to understand where the specific needs for childcare are.
“Is it second shift, third shift? Is it before school after school?” said Adams. “Those will be the next set of dynamics to make sure that we’re diversified in the fact that if you work second shift out of town, that you have the ability to have childcare, and how big is that need?”
Adams said he hopes to see how these efforts improve the county’s standing when it comes to childcare in the next Early Learning Indiana report.