GOTHENBURG — Casey Madsen saw a need when she relocated from the eastern side of the state to Gothenburg. Not only did she see there was a lack of childcare options, but a distinct lack of educational childcare options.
Having originally directed childcare centers in Omaha and Fremont, Madsen was no stranger to providing educational childcare, she described it as being the norm in daycares on the east side of the state.
When she relocated farther west, she said she was shocked by the lack of childcare options, especially those providing early childhood education.
“Most of a child’s brain development takes place between ages zero and five,” Madsen said, “It is disheartening to see places which don’t educate children.”
Madsen made the decision to open her own childcare center and focus on education. She said she went to several different spaces including churches and businesses looking for the right fit.
Eventually she ended up at the First United Methodist Church in Gothenburg. Madsen said it had the most room and members of the congregation were supportive of the idea.
When looking to open a childcare center, Madsen had to make sure she met a number of Department of Health and Human Service requirements.
Those included an area for an attached playground and a commercial kitchen. Madsen said finding a commercial kitchen was one of the main limiting factors in her search.
DHHS regulations also call for 35 square feet per child, after Madsen measured out the space she determined she could have space for 83 children.
Madsen said the part which took her the longest opening up the center was the six months it took for the City of Gothenburg to rezone the area to include a childcare center.
She also applied for a $10,000 startup grant through DHHS and had to take out personal loans as well.
On Sept. 14, 2015 Learning Adventures Childcare Center Inc. open its doors on the second floor of the Methodist Church.
Currently Madsen said Learning Adventures cares for 64 children and she won’t exceed 70, citing the space would be too full if they were at capacity. Learning Adventures takes in children from six weeks old up to 13-years-old.
The biggest demand is space for infants said Madsen, they are currently booked full and have a waiting list up to one year. She said, ironically, some people applying for positions at Learning Adventures cannot make it work cause they themselves have infants and can’t find childcare for them.
Learning Adventures is opened Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Madsen said there are 13 staff members employed by the daycare, 10 of which are full time.
The educational aspect of the daycare is of the highest importance to Madsen, her teachers come up with an age appropriate curriculum and create a lesson plan she and the teachers review. Information about these lesson plans goes to out to the parents every week so they can keep track of what their children are being taught, Madsen said.
“We try to copy the public school system,” Madsen said about the lesson plans and curriculum, “so much is expected of children when they reach kindergarten, here we offer full day preschool.”
For toddlers and infants, Madsen said the staff focuses on teaching motor skills.
One new member who joined Learning Adventures in May is Nicole Hetz, who described herself as an, “early childhood care and education advocate.”
Hetz is also the Community Coordinator for Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition, GECLC, an organization dedicated to ensuring every child deserves early childhood learning opportunities supporting their growth and development needed for kindergarten.
Hetz said she had two priorities starting out, helping to build and strength the GECLC and supply them with resources to share amongst the members.
Another goal of Hetz is to educate adults on why early childhood education is so vital, and how it makes a difference in the community. She said it was important to educate young families and those who are new to Gothenburg.
The children with more education depend less on the system as they grow older, Hetz and Madsen said.
Data provided by the GECLC shows Nebraska spends approximately $33.1 million on high quality early childhood education, but spends 209.7 million on correctional services.
A study by Drew Thepolis indicates if high quality early childhood education is funded appropriately it helps increase productivity and economic development as well as cultivating a more skilled workforce and save triggers taxpayer savings on costly public systems.
Hetz is also passionate about family wellness and ensuring the whole family is healthy in both a physical and mental sense.
“We want to educate families on what their little ones need,” Madsen said, “We are raising the future, the future doctors and lawyers. It takes everyone.”