Imagine there’s enough affordable daycare for all ages. It’s easier right now through March 2022, if we give it a try. Thanks to pandemic era funding, both parents and providers can find scholarships and grants regardless of income.
Indiana’s Brighter Futures Initiative is scrambling to find daycare providers to apply for grants that will build their infrastructure, strengthen their services, and retain employees. They have grant money that needs to be awarded within the next few months. They also have non-competitive scholarship funds for children of at least one essential worker.
In the past, Montgomery County has been a childcare desert. Too many children needed care, and not enough providers exist to meet the need. Wabash College faculty, including Dr. Preston Bost, banded together in past years to try to create a high quality program to serve their children and the surrounding community, but couldn’t work it out. Now with funding under the Build Learn Grow initiative, there’s opportunity.
Nine providers have registered to accept the Build Learn Grow Scholarships. These cover eighty percent of costs per child for parents who are essential workers regardless of income. Many in our community qualify as essential workers- retail, restaurant, hospitality, medical, teachers, postal and manufacturing are among the many. As of November, only fifty-seven kids have the scholarship. The program also waives vouchers for CCDF recipients. To apply, families can go to https://brighterfuturesindiana.org/scholarships
Build Learn Grow funds for childcare programs need to be spent by March 2022, so its staff is encouraging our local providers who are licensed centers, unlicensed ministries, and even legally-licensed exempt providers. More information is at https://brighterfuturesindiana.org/programs/indianacares.
Brighter Futures maintains a database of participating providers who submit atta to help community leaders assess the need for daycare. Of the nine local providers participating, our community has nine teacher openings and sixty-four unfilled spots for kids. There are other providers who haven’t been reached yet. While spots for infants and toddlers under twenty-three months are harder to find, as are non-traditional hours, it’s worth checking out what’s available by contacting the providers here: https://brighterfuturesindiana.org/local-help-for-finding-child-care
Imagine all the kiddos, play-learning in peace. What is play learning? It’s the kind of developmentally rich experience that results in life-long benefits. High quality childcare programs are proven to increase children’s self-control and likelihood of them graduating from high school. It’s more about quality of life than an academic edge. When caregivers get down on the level of kids: creating art, playing playdough, making music, reading, talking to, singing with, and engaging kids, the brain grows. Literacy improves. Motor skills develop. Social skills and emotional regulation mature. A good program is more “than a place to park children,” said Dr. Preston Bost who is now on a steering committee to launch another center at First Christian Church.
Imagine no shortage of trained workers. A large number of young people would love to work in rich environments with children, but wages are not competitive and training is rare. Childcare workers don’t receive the professional support of teachers, nor the wages of even a fast food worker, so turnover is high. Children need to form positive, lasting bonds with care-givers, but underpaid staff may not have incentive to invest that long-term emotional energy.
Those who work with children would benefit from professional development. Their grammar and social-emotional skills form the model for learning. From 0-5, humans are building critical pathways in their brains. Poor child development experiences can do lasting harm since it takes much more intensive education to unlearn poor or incorrect language, social, emotional or problem-solving skills. On Nov. 8, the NY Times summarized findings on several dozen studies showing who benefits from what type of care. Low-quality childcare, especially from 0-2, can result in major setbacks in behavior and social development. High quality care significantly closes the gap for low-income, Black, and Latino children, especially boys.
Dr. Bost notes that if we were serious as a nation about our children, we’d consider the cost, the quality, and the access. Up until now, the “desert” situation in Montgomery has upstaged the critical issue in our increasingly diverse county. We need care options that are intentional and explicitly able to boost the outcomes for every kid, and considers every race, ethnicity, and income class. Perhaps if we take advantage of these “reset” funds, we can fulfill the dream. Imagine.