TCEDA’s Solutions to Thayer County’s Child Care Crisis
6 Nov 2023
The child care crisis is “nationwide, threatening the future of the U.S.’s youngest minds and is hindering employment and education advancement of the American workforce. … The crisis can be broken down into three key, interrelated challenges: affordability, accessibility, and quality of care. … As a whole, the industry is labor-intensive and requires a high level of staffing, raising the financial burden on centers, and increasing the costs of care.” - Gianna Melillo, The Hill.
“The annual cost of the infant-toddler childcare crisis is $122B.” - Ready Nation & Council for a Strong America's 2023 Report.
TCEDA Is Always Working Behind the Scenes
Nebraska’s statewide solution to help combat the childcare crisis was the creation of the Communities for Kids (C4K) Initiative. As stated on its website, “The C4K Initiative aims to partner with communities’ public and private entities to support and coordinate planning for access to high-quality early care and education for all children birth through age five.”
Thayer County Economic Development Alliance (TCEDA) wants to work as a team to combat the child care crisis and strengthen Thayer County’s early childhood professional workforce. In the Spring of 2022, TCEDA began discussions, data collection, and the application process to receive a C4K grant, backed by Nebraska's Dept. of Human and Health Services. By Spring 2023, TCEDA was notified of a $30k award that would span three years at $10k per year. With this news, TCEDA took more action toward helping Thayer County’s workforce and children.
The next step was to create the Thayer County C4K CORE Team, made up of individuals across the county in many different capacities - school boards, licensed providers, council members, parents, etc. Grant spending will be delegated by the Thayer County C4K CORE Team.
TCEDA continues to have candid conversations with employers on how they can be better advocates for quality, accessible, and affordable options while working with TCEDA to increase the number of child care opportunities. TCEDA also spreads awareness and information about partnering with child care providers to help ease the cost burden of child care for their employees.
Currently, there are 13 (two centers and 11 in-home) licensed child care providers in Thayer County. TCEDA offers support to established child care centers and in-home providers to help them succeed and expand while offering training, and resources to new child care providers.
Kinder Academy is one of the largest licensed child care providers in Thayer County. Yet, they too have a waitlist to care for children within the county. We spoke with the original owner Stephanie Briggs, about how Kinder Academy came to be. She said, “I opened Kinder Academy in Bruning with the support of the Bruning Community Foundation and Bruning District School Board in August of 2019. I heard about the great need in the area for child care and having been in the field for 20 years, I wanted to help be part of the solution. I have since sold the business to the non-profit entity Bruning Early Education Non-Profit (BEEN) because I had to move out of state and didn’t want Kinder Academy to close. BEEN has wonderful directors and teachers who truly love their profession and that [made] the move and sale of Kinder Academy a tad easier for me. Kinder Academy serves children ages 6 weeks - 12 years old with a licensed capacity of 45 children and currently, it is full.”
Briggs’ words are more proof of the need for quality child care in Bruning and Thayer County. With a capacity of 45 and a waitlist, it is clear that the need for child care is continually growing.
TCEDA’s goal is to make Thayer County the number one premier place for families to raise children with choice child care options, great school systems, and quality housing with desired job opportunities. However, none of this can happen without quality and affordable child care.
As with many things, child care isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach as the families in our communities look quite different. There is room for all kinds and sizes of child care options within our county. What works for one doesn’t always work for another. As Thayer County communities and family sizes continue to grow, TCEDA wants to help increase the capacity of spaces to house Thayer County’s children.
If you have a passion and skill for early child care, an idea/solution to help combat Thayer County’s child care crisis, or if you’d like to donate to the cause, contact TCEDA. A conversation today could be the change for tomorrow.