Photo: Photo Courtesy of FEDA
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Expanding Childcare in Iowa South

With the increase of dual-income families, childcare is a necessity. In the Iowa South region, three cities are hard at work, expanding daycare options for their residents. 

The Ottumwa Family YMCA recently announced an expansion and renovation of their daycare. 

“We want to build both the number of available slots for children in our community, but also the long-term sustainability of our program,” Ottumwa Family YMCA CEO/Director Garrett Ross says. 

The expansion and renovation will include an addition of approximately 1,500 square feet, improved layout and design of current program areas, updated arrival area with safer and more user-friendly features, and improved operations in programming. It also provides 50 new open daycare spots.

The expansion project is in part funded by JBS USA and Plumrose USA who are providing $600,000 in funding. 

“Childcare is a very difficult business, but a very necessary business to support growth and development in the community,” Ross says. “We need long term support from these large companies to build that sustainability.”

Curious Kids Childcare - photo courtesy of Michelle Brooke

In Centerville, another company is investing in childcare. Seeing a need for daycare options for their employees, Lee Container worked with Curious Kids Childcare to find a solution. 

“One of the reasons Lee employees missed work often was because, as stated on a survey Lee asked staff to respond to, they did not have reliable childcare,” Michelle Brooke, Curious Kids Childcare director/owner explained.

The partnership between the two has proved valuable for their community. Michelle needed more room to expand her facilities and take on more children, while Lee Container wanted to better support their employees. 

Lee Container took initiative and purchased a former elementary school building that is now operated by Curious Kids Childcare. The larger space allows them to provide childcare for more families — many of who are Lee Container employees.

“We offer Lee a discounted price for their employees,” Brooke says. ”Lee pays half and they take the other half out of the employees’ paycheck.”

With childcare now a necessity for many, Lee Container gained statewide attention for the move.

“Childcare has to be affordable or there is no benefit for the parent to work,” Brooke says. “The partnership we made with Lee has given families in our area a work option that makes sense financially.”

“There is no question in this community of the value, of the prioritizing, of the advancement of childcare.”

In Fairfield, companies have rallied to expand daycare options by supporting a nationally-recognized initiative by the Fairfield Economic Development Association (FEDA), Early Childhood Iowa, and Jefferson County Kids, Inc. Their childcare initiative aims to raise $3.5 million to assist with childcare expansion in their city and county. 

“Every corner of the community has come together, from businesses to local government to caring citizens, to support adding more childcare spaces, improving the quality, and addressing the affordability of childcare in the community,” says Joshua Laraby, executive director of FEDA.

As of December 2020, the partner organizations are 90% of the way to their goal and have already assisted three center expansions and started two incentive programs for new and current home providers. 

“Businesses and individuals in the community have been incredibly supportive — we are very close to our capital campaign goal,” Laraby says. “The businesses see this as an investment, not a donation. This is an investment for their employees.” 

One goal of the initiative is the construction of a new childcare center in Fairfield that will add 188 new daycare spots for families. Two top Fairfield employers, Cambridge and Traffix Devices, showed their support by donating towards its construction. 

“One of our core values is commitment and that includes commitment to our associates, their families, as well as our local community,” Amy Webber, president and CEO of Cambridge says of the donation.

The organizations hope and are working hard to complete the center by the end of 2021. 

“We have all hands on deck,” Laraby says. “The economic development office has prioritized this, which is historically pretty non-traditional.”

This focus on childcare and the community support they’ve received is a testament to Fairfield’s values in the same way Centerville and Ottumwa’s recent expansions have shown their dedication to childcare in their cities. 

“There is no question in this community of the value, of the prioritizing, of the advancement of childcare,” Laraby says. ”We are focused on this; we want to do this for our working families. Childcare is a priority.”

Header Image: This is an artist rendering of what the new Jefferson County Kids Inc. Child Care Center could look like. The design is subject to change. 

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