September 27, 2019 at 11:00 AM
Child Care Solutions Summit Results and Next Steps
Last week the Chamber hosted the Child Care Solutions Summit in collaboration with the Iowa Women_s Foundation, Iowa City Area Development and Johnson County Social Services. Over 60 people attended the summit, consisting of child care providers, local elected officials and candidates, and citizens from both sides of the political spectrum looking to voice their concerns.
Currently, Iowa has one of the worst rates of accessibility to quality child care in the nation, with a shortfall of 361,677 child care spaces throughout the state. In Johnson County, that shortfall is almost 13,000 spaces, and about 50-70 children are on a waitlist with the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County at any one time.
It is clear to see that there is a crisis occurring, and the Iowa Women’s Foundation’s mission is to help solve this problem by _improving the lives of Iowa_s women and girls through economic self-sufficiency._ The IWF works through _research, grantmaking, advocacy, education, and collaboration_ in order to provide women with the economic and educational tools to further their careers without any restrictions from barriers.
At the summit, IWF executive director Dawn Oliver Wiand, asked the attendees their opinion of the current state of Iowa child care. Though some negative adjectives such as _inaccessible, limited, underfunded_ floated around the room, there was an equal amount of praising with words like _enriching, crucial, and caring._ It is clear that members of the community value child care, but find that there is a huge lack of funding and support for quality and affordable options. The foundation has six prepared solutions that, if successfully implemented, will provide an influx of child care spaces:
- Building & expanding child care centers.
- Supporting and incentivizing programs that maintain and encourage child care entrepreneurs.
- Increasing the number of businesses that establish employer provided, subsidized, or co-op child care for employees.
- Partnering with community colleges for early childhood educational programs and child care provision.
- Establishing before & after school programs.
- Addressing second- and third-shift child care needs.
After discussing these potential solutions, attendees were asked to prioritize the solutions that resonated with them personally, and break off into smaller groups. Building & expanding child care centers, supporting child care entrepreneurs, employer-provided child care, and before & after school programs were the primary topics addressed by these groups. From there, they spent time discussing plans of action to present to the group at-large. Collaboration and in-depth discussion led to condensed and concise ideas about how to solve some of these problems in Johnson County. Selected members from the Chamber and the community volunteered to lead this collaboration and will check in with the IWF periodically to ensure plans are being set in motion.
IWF has conducted over 30 of these Solutions Summits across the state, and hope to spark the beginning of an affordable child care movement. Thanks to the work of the Iowa Women_s Foundation and the willingness of concerned citizens to act, there is now an outlet to efficiently organize around the growing problem of accessible and affordable child care in Iowa.
The Chamber intends to participate in the annual child care summit, also hosted by the Iowa Women_s Foundation, on Wednesday, November 6th, in Ankeny, Iowa. Members from all 30 communities that hosted summits will reconvene and share their successes and struggles, and will move forward with developing a comprehensive statewide action plan to increase the availability of affordable child care.
If you would like to join the affordable child care movement in Johnson County, contact Jennifer Banta.