Early Learning Boost

$100,000 grant to create 80 new childcare seats in county

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The Montgomery County Community Foundation has been announced as a winner of the Child Care Deserts Competition, focused on increasing access to high-quality childcare for children ages six weeks to six years.

More than four of every 10 children in Indiana live in a childcare desert — a neighborhood, town or part of a city where there is no more than one childcare seat for every three children.

“As a parent, I know childcare is a struggle,” MCCF Executive Director Kelly Taylor said. “For working parents, it’s very important to be able to go to work and know your child is being well-cared for in a safe, nurturing and quality environment.”

The Child Care Deserts Competition, hosted by Early Learning Indiana with support from a 2014 grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., awarded $1 million to 13 organizations for their submitted ideas to create new childcare seats. The MCCF will receive $100,000 from Early Learning Indiana in the Child Care Desert Competition.

The news was shared Thursday at a meeting of the Montgomery County Workforce Development Roundtable — a group organized by Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton to address workforce related issues.

“This group has done some phenomenal work coming together to create locally-driven solutions,” Mayor Todd Barton said. “The lack of childcare, basically, was keeping people out of the workforce. It was causing disruption in the workforce when people were actually employed.

“We were able to bring in some really good partners to help us really dig in and understand this and start to create a strategic plan to move forward,” he continued. “At the same time, this issue was really rising to surface around the state, and we found ourselves in a situation where we were really ahead of the curve.”

Childcare rose to the top of the Workforce Development Roundtable’s concerns in 2019. A task force was then formed with representatives from local government, nonprofits, industry and schools. Data from the Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee showed that Montgomery County ranked in the 10-lowest counties for childcare seats and that only 2 percent of Montgomery County children under the age of five were enrolled in high-quality programs.

“Early Learning Indiana is committed to supporting innovative models for creating capacity locally,” Early Learning Indiana Director of Capacity Building Natalie Brake said. “So engaging with the local stateholders to look at those models that are promising across the nation, and then deciding which ones will work for their communities ... is what the MCCF did in their application, and that’s what we’ve invested in for them to create here.”

Before launching any new initiatives related to childcare, the needs of the community had to be studied. MCCF and the City of Crawfordsville collaborated with local employers to hire a consultant to complete a community needs assessment related to childcare in the county, as well as develop a strategic plan to respond to the need.

Using the findings from the needs assessment, the taskforce drove a proposal for the Child Care Deserts Competition. The plan includes partnerships with Rainbows and Rhymes Preschool at First United Methodist Church and Hand-In-Hand at First Christian Church. The grant funds will be used to add 56 full daycare preschool seats at Rainbows and Rhymes and 24 full daycare infant and toddler seats at Hand-In-Hand. Both programs will be focused on delivering high-quality care.

“I’m excited not only in my work at the MCCF, but also as a parent, that we’re going to be offering additional seats to address this in the community,” Taylor said. “I know we have more work to do, this is just the beginning, but our task force has put together a five-year strategic plan to address this. We’ll be announcing more information and more initiatives that we want to achieve throughout the community.”

Funds will also be used to start a Montgomery County Early Childhood Coalition to improve childcare quality through provider and public education. Hoosier Heartland State Bank, Pace Dairy, Nucor Steel, Wabash College, Wesley Thrift Shop, CEL&P, the City of Crawfordsville and the MCCF have partnered to provide additional funding support for the coalition.

“This is just the beginning of some good things we’re going to see for parents, for providers and most of all our children,” Taylor said.

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