The childcare crunch in Montgomery County was the topic of a special meeting coordinated by the Montgomery County Development Corporation at the Montgomery County YMCA on June 28.
The meeting included childcare providers, members of the Red Oak School Board, the Red Oak Chamber and Industry Association, and the Montgomery County board of supervisors, among others. MCDC director Shawnna Silvius said research shows a 32 percent decline in the number of programs that offer childcare and early childhood development services in Montgomery County, and this has an adverse effect on economic vitality in the community.
“Child care is the number one barrier for employment, especially for single families, and we know in Montgomery County we are short on childcare. The data provided by the Child Resource and Referral Center shows that we currently have 392 child care spaces available, and our shortfall is 1,183. That is four children needing care for every spot available,” Silvius said.
Alex McFarland, director of Sunshine & Rainbows/Lil Tigers Preschool Child Resource Center, said in addition to the main need for quality childcare was funding for the current childcare centers in the county to become a quality center.
“I’ve seen a lot of parents who can’t afford the care we supply here. Infant care is through the roof expensive. I have a mother who just had twins and she’s paying over $900 a month for her childcare. It’s hard for people to be able to afford that, and if we had more funding so we could potentially lower the rates; that would definitely be helpful,” McFarland said.
Carol Jensen, who serves with the Iowa Childcare Resource and Referral Center, said another problem affecting the growth of child care in the communities was the lack of a workforce.
“When you can go to a fast food restaurant and earn $11 an hour for an eight hour shift, versus working 10 hours in a child care center for less money, it affects the work force. It takes the whole community to work together to find a solution,” Jensen said.
Stanton Child Resource Center director Brandi Snow said there was a waiting list of 49 children at the Stanton Center, while McFarland said Sunshine and Rainbows had 30 available spots, though the only calls she was receiving were for infant care.
“Unfortunately, those spots open at the drop of a hat, but you can lose them just as quickly as you get them, and I’m full as of late. The maximum number we can have is eight,” McFarland said.
Stephanie Berglund, who teaches with the Red Oak District, said if the county did not have the attraction of quality jobs and quality housing, it had an affect on the median incomes of families needing child care.
‘I’ve been in meetings with parents who say they Googled the cheapest place to live in Iowa and Montgomery County popped up. That can’t be our face. If we don’t get companies providing good jobs to come here, that’s the root of the problem,” Berglund said.
Members in the audience agreed that it was a vicious cycle, as those big companies would not start operations in the area if there was a lack of housing and child care.
Information from the attendees was collected at the meeting, with future discussions planned to discuss strategies at a later date.
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