June 14, 2022 (Des Moines, Iowa) – The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and the Iowa Women’s Foundation (IWF) today announced a new full-time position dedicated to helping Iowa businesses develop family-friendly child care policies for their employees.

Sheri Penney, the former economic development director in Mitchell County, has accepted the new role of IWF’s Employer Engagement Director as part of a pilot project created through a partnership between IWF and IEDA. The partnership and new position deliver on a key recommendation of the Governor’s Child Care Task Force, which convened last year to address the child care shortage in Iowa.

“This partnership with the Iowa Women’s Foundation is another recommendation made by the Child Care Task Force being implemented to help improve the child care shortage in our state,” said Gov. Reynolds. “We know there is no one solution that will provide more availability to quality, affordable child care, but rather a variety of solutions, many of which we already have in place. In addition to the $25 million Child Care Business Incentive Grant we announced last month, this new Employer Engagement Director position will help employers deliver child care solutions to their employees.”

While Iowa is a national leader in the share of households with all parents working, the state has too few options for child care – one of the six barriers to self-sufficiency that IWF focuses on. Iowa lost 33% of its child care businesses over the last five years, and 23% of Iowans live in a child care desert – areas with a shortage of licensed providers. The child care shortage also costs Iowa’s economy about $935 million each year in lost tax revenue, worker absences, and employee turnover.

To help businesses close the gap, IWF and Iowa business leaders formed the Iowa Business and Child Care Coalition. The coalition created a comprehensive toolkit of child care solutions for businesses, from subsidized child care to flexible spending accounts and on-site child care. The coalition’s work and toolkit were highlighted in the Child Care Task Force’s final report.

In her new role, Penney will help businesses understand the economic impact of child care, assess their needs and understand solutions outlined in the toolkit. She will also serve as a liaison between regional Child Care Resources and Referral representatives and other partners to connect businesses to resources.

In her former role as Mitchell County Economic Development Director, Penney worked closely with businesses to find ways to increase access to quality, affordable child care in the area. Penney also is an experienced child care provider, providing valuable insight toward IWF’s mission to make child care more affordable while ensuring that providers earn a fair and competitive wage.

“Sheri’s expertise provides a unique perspective on the child care shortage as well as how to address it through this new position,” said Dawn Oliver Wiand, IWF CEO. “She is a collaborator, a connector and a visionary. We are thrilled to have her join the IWF team.”