Lexington child care planning team looks for new ways forward

Community members gathered for a second time on July 23 to discuss ways to help tackle the lack of child care options in Lexington and Dawson County.

LEXINGTON — In a continued effort to help alleviate the large child care shortage Lexington has, a second meeting of local businesses, organizations and concerned citizens took place on Tuesday, July 23.

The first meeting took place in June. The group discussed the need for child care options, heard testimony from the Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition and heard from Lexington organizations which were in early talks of what they could do to help tackle the problem.

The meeting started with updates on short term possible child care licenses in Lexington. Casey Madsen, director of Learning Adventures Child Care Center in Gothenburg said she is seeking to open a child care center in Lexington.

Madsen said she has toured both Trinity Lutheran Church and the First United Methodist Church as possible spaces to open a center.

Madsen and her assistant director Haleigh Rangel held a presentation about their business before the FUMC church council. The council then approved space in the church to be used for a child care center, the FUMC will now hold a congregational church vote to decide the matter.

Madsen is also giving the same presentation to the Trinity Lutheran Church. She said she is opening a center in Lexington regardless and is seeking a license for 50 to 60 children. If the center opens, it will be the largest and only child care center in Lexington at the moment.

YMCA of the Prairie CEO Riley Gruntorad said they are still in the starting stages of discussing opening a child care center. The YMCA has its own regulations, on top of those required by the Department of Health and Human Services. Opening a center hosted by the YMCA may take some time, he said.

Dawson County Area Development Executive Director Andrea McClintic was present at the meeting and said her office has shifted their focus to work force development. She said the county cannot get new employees if the county cannot provide adequate daycare for them.

McClintic suggested the Lexington Community Foundation be brought on board with this team, they could help more easily given their umbrella non-profit status, she said.

DHHS Child Care Inspection Specialist Shonna Werth said there is a lack of trained early childhood providers in the county. She said the requirements for child care providers can be rigorous and the only people you will find receiving the training are those people who are already involved in childcare.

“Child care is not babysitting, there is much more it than that,” Werth said, “Quality care for Dawson County is our goal.”

Werth also noted it can be a high financial cost to child care centers to train different people over and over again.

McClintic said a worker training grant could be written to help get people educated in providing quality childcare. These grants would come through the Department of Labor. McClintic said D.A.D. could pilot a career certification program for those taking child care classes.

There came a suggestion to host child care training classes in Dawson County to get as many people trained as possible. McClintic said this should be promoted like a college degree, showing people if they want to work in early childhood development, they go through these classes.

Another suggestion was to get area high school juniors and seniors who are interested in child care to take these classes and have them prepared to work right after graduation, or to go to college and get further degrees in child development.

First aid and CPR classes are something every provider needs to know and if they can train people on this, they can jump right into a child care job. Werth said Central Community College is also interested in getting involved.

“We want people to open their doors with an understanding of child care,” Werth said, “We want people involved to have a good grasp of quality care.”

A Rooted in Relationships, RiR, meeting took place after the planning meeting. RiR is a statewide initiative which partners with local communities to implement evidence based practices which enhance the social-emotional development of children, birth through age eight, according to their 2018 snapshot report.

RiR supports the “Pyramid Model,” a framework of evidence-based practices which seeks to promote the social, emotional, and behavioral competence of young children in selected family child care homes and centers.

Communities also establish a multi-disciplinary stakeholder team charged with development and implementing a long range plan to influence the early childhood systems of care to support healthy development, according to the report.

Dawson County began implementing the RiR initiative back in 2014. It is coordinated by Two Rivers Public Health Department, with the goal of collaborating so individuals in the county will be able to identify and access services which will result in healthy and stable families.

In 2018, RiR served 390 families and 589 children directly. Indirectly they served 30,895 families and 24,810 children, according to their 2018 report.

Last year the Pyramid Model was implemented by four coaches to 24 providers at 11 child care sites. There were 36 percent were center-based and 64 percent were home base providers, retention rate was 88 percent.

Two centers in Dawson County implemented the model across their entire programs.

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