In the development of the United Way of the Wabash Valley’s new strategic plan, a common issue that was brought up by the community and business leaders was the access and affordability of high-quality child care. This issue is vital for both the employers looking to attract and retain workers and parents looking to provide for their children.
High quality child care lays a foundation for learning and success. Research shows that a child’s brain develops more rapidly in the first five years than in any other time in one’s life. This means that the quality of care a young child receives in their early years significantly influences their long-term growth and development. The quality of childcare is regulated by the Paths to QUALITY™ program in Indiana. This system consists of four levels, with 4 being the highest level achieved with national accreditation, and each level builds on the foundation of the previous one. In Indiana, only 35% of children in child care are attending a high-quality program. In many places around the state no high-quality programs exist or if there are programs there is not enough capacity. The United Way saw this as a major issue in the Wabash Valley and decided to find a way to begin addressing it.
To respond to the demand and affordability issues, in 2017, the United Way solicited proposals from child care sites to propose how they would provide quality affordable child care and prepare children to enter school ready to learn by increasing their enrollment numbers in an existing Level 3 or 4 Paths to QUALITY™ program or move up a level in the rating system. A volunteer committee of early childhood expertise reviewed the applications from over 19 child care sites, and ultimately, three child care providers at 4 locations across the Wabash Valley were awarded 2-year grants totaling $100,000.
This community investment has had a great impact as it was able to provide 44 brand new Level 3 or 4 child care openings and increased the ratings of over 72 child care spots. This means that 116 children in the Wabash Valley will be receiving a higher quality of child care than they were before. Richard Payonk, Executive Director of the United Way of the Wabash Valley explained the process as, “Our donors want to see a positive impact in our community. This type of grant funding toward a specific community requested need is how our United Way and other organizations can come together to improve the community.” The payoffs of this grant will be received for years to come as these new or enhanced positions will sustain themselves and provide added benefits for children for years to come.
Detailed Results Include:
- Big Sprouts & Little Sprouts in West Terre Haute were a Level 2 facility with capacity for 32 children. After their grant investment they were able to open an additional location that created 12 brand new Level 4 openings bringing their total capacity to 44 children.
- CRADLES Brazil began as an unrated facility with capacity for 15 children. Since their grant investment they have progressed to Level 2, and with positive momentum, they are in the process of moving to Level 3.
- CRADLES Clay City began as an unrated facility with capacity for 25 children. With their grant investment they are finalizing their rating with a goal of being Level 2 in 2019.
- Dawns Daycare was a Level 3 facility with a long waitlist. With their investment from the grant they were able to open a new location. They are now offering 16 brand new Level 4 openings and 16 brand new Level 3 openings with a goal of achieving Level 4 later this year.