LEXINGTON — The June meeting of the Lexington Communities for Kids child care team marked the one year anniversary since the group began meeting and they took time to reflect on their accomplishments, as well as plans for the future.
In June 2019, a group of individuals from across Dawson County met to discuss the lack of child care in the community. From this initial meeting, a group of volunteers emerged who continued to meet monthly, discussing how best to address the need for child care in the Lexington community.
Now a year later, the group reflected on major accomplishments.
"After that first meeting a partnership was formed between the Lexington First United Methodist Church and Casey Madsen, owner/director of Learning Adventures Child Care Center, Inc. As of May 17, 2020, Learning Adventures Child Care Center Lexington obtained their license with a capacity of 85, said Shonna Werth, Assistant Vice President, Early Childhood Programs with Nebraska Children and Families.
The Learning Adventures Lexington center opened their doors in June, and at the moment is the community’s only child care center, the first one in several years to operate.
The group also felt it was important to know exactly just what the child care needs were of the different demographics in Lexington.
"A community survey for parents, community at large, and employers was developed and began to be distributed in November of 2019," Werth said, "This survey is still open as the group had decided the data gathered was not adequate to represent the entire community of Lexington."
While around 100 people responded to the survey, the representation of responses from the Latino and Somali populations was low and not representative of the community, Werth said.
"It was decided that once a fiscal agent was established and a coordinator could be hired, we would begin looking at implementing the survey again to obtain needed data to guide decisions regarding the work around building capacity and quality early care opportunities," said Werth.
A coordinator was hired in April 2020.
"Alyson Young was contracted to manage the C4K work that needed to be done in order to support the action steps that were needed to be done within the work plan. Due to the COVID - 19 pandemic, Alyson's first task was to do outreach to area providers and find out what their needs were, Werth said."
The group was also able to find a fiscal agent in the First United Methodist Church, which renovated space in their church for the Learning Adventures child care.
"The planning group was able to establish a fiscal agent agreement with the Lexington First United Methodist Church to manage the Community for Kids planning grant funds," said Werth, "The grant was approved and signed as of March 2020. The grant funds expired at the end of June 2020."
Werth said a new work plan and budget will be submitted for the new grant planning cycle which will run from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
The group understood the need not just for additional child care spaces, but for people who were educated in quality child care to work in these day cares and centers.
"During the months of April and May the Professional Learning subcommittee met to begin developing and planning the Dawson County Early Childhood Professional Learning Series," Werth said, "A contract was drawn up between the C4K group and Mindy Young to provide Early Childhood Professional Learning Series classes to Dawson County residents in order to build a qualified early childhood workforce and support entry into early childhood field of work or higher education locally."
A group of individuals which included, Amy Hill, Central Community College; Mindy Young, Early Childhood Trainer; Alyson Young, C4K coordinator; Patti Mahrt Roberts, Early Childhood Trainer/Dawson Co Rooted in Relationships Coordinator; Pastor Anne Gahn, First United Methodist Church; Alexandra Dillion, Central Region Early Learning Connections Coordinator and Werth all met to plan the series of classes, the training platform, and registration.
A total of 57 hours of training is being offered, Werth said, the Professional Learning Series started in the last week of May and will run throughout the summer.
"Mindy is teaching 49 hours of the classes which includes an orientation, a virtual guest speaker session, 20 hours of child care business classes, 4 Early Learning Guideline classes focused on Language and Learning, Health and Physical Development, Science, and Social/Emotional learning for children ages 0 to 5, a wrap up session, and a 4 hour professional application training," said Werth.
Mindy Young said during the group meeting on Tuesday, it’s, "exciting," to see the people who are taking the classes starting to grow and learn. "They are in the most important profession," she said.
"We have done a lot since last June," Werth told the other ground members during Tuesday’s meeting, "we have come so far since then."
Werth said while they were able to add a child care center in Lexington, they have also lost some home daycare providers to retirement.
The resources and people to foster quality child care are here in Dawson County, Werth told the group, and she added they need to make special efforts to keep trained, quality providers here in the county.
The group hopes to relaunch the child care survey to get a better picture of what the needs of the community is, as well as the specific needs of the various demographics.