The IWF’s brand new Child Care Collaborative Fund was established in order to support organizations addressing the lack of child care in our state. These organizations and initiatives focus on strategies that increase women’s economic self-sufficiency by decreasing the workforce gap through better access to affordable, quality child care. The Fort Dodge Child Care Initiative, led by Linking Families, is our first recipient, and will be awarded $10,000. Guest blogger Elizabeth Stanek from Linking Families tells us more:

 

Linking Families and Communities is excited to begin work on the Fort Dodge Child Care Initiative, which has been selected as the first grant award of the Iowa Women’s Foundation’s new Child Care Collaborative Fund. The award will kick start the initiative, which aims to increase the number of child care spaces available in Fort Dodge.

 

The Fort Dodge Child Care Initiative is the result of a child care feasibility study that was completed in November 2016. The study, funded by a group of local business partners, revealed that Fort Dodge has a shortage of 1,638 child care spaces. The shortfall is compounded by the fact that the area is experiencing growth in business and industry, as well as an increase in young adults in their child-bearing years.

 

Conversely, the child care supply has continued to decline and 86% of young children have all parents in the workforce, which is roughly 10% higher than the State of Iowa. Armed with that information, it was clear that there is not a single solution that will close the gap between supply and demand, which is likely to grow. Therefore, the Fort Dodge Child Care Initiative set three objectives:

  1. Recruit and retain child development homes;
  2. Expand existing licensed child care centers; AND
  3. Build new licensed child care centers.

The grant award from the IWF Child Care Collaborative Fund provides support for the first phase of the process to secure 200 additional child care center spaces in Fort Dodge. During the first phase of the Initiative, a local architectural firm will be engaged to conduct pre-design work for an addition to Community Early Learning Center, as well as the pre-design of a new center, as outlined in the feasibility study.

 

The pre-design work is important, as it will provide floor plans, exterior 3-D renderings, and probable construction costs for both the center expansion project and the new center. This valuable information will serve as a launch pad for community support, fundraising and grant writing for both projects, which will be necessary in order to see them to completion.

 

The completion of the two objectives that are being supported by the Child Care Collaborative Fund will secure 200 additional child care center spaces in Fort Dodge, which will help more parents go to work or school. However, it will do much more for the community—these projects will bring additional focus and importance to the issue for both families and businesses. It is our intention that through this process we will help the community understand three messages:

  • Child care is a vital part of our local economy.
  • Child care enables parents to go to work or attend school; therefore, it is an essential support service for business and industry.
  • Quality child care is key to a strong, thriving community as it supports working families and provides care and education to children during the largest period of brain development, setting the stage for children’s future success and the success of the future workforce.