The work of a Bartholomew County-based agency that connects parents to child-care providers will be consolidated this fall into other agencies in the state.
Childhood Connections no longer will be the designated child care resource and referral agency for Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson, Jennings and six other regional counties beginning Oct. 1.
The Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral is restructuring the statewide system to reduce the number of local referral agencies from 11 to nine. The other local referral agency being consolidated is in northern Indiana.
At least nine staff members at Childhood Connections will be laid off and possibly all 11, said Rose Ellen Adams, the agency’s executive director. The association did offer to interview local staff members for possible job openings at other agencies around the state.
The restructuring will increase the amount of federal grant money that goes to the remaining nine agencies by about $800,000, said Marsha Thompson, executive director of the Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral. The association receives about $7 million in federal block grants to operate the statewide system. After the restructuring, about $5 million of the grants will go to the nine referral agencies, Thompson said.
Bartholomew and Brown counties will be served by Childcare Answers in Indianapolis. Jackson and Jennings counties will be served by the Southeastern Indiana Economic Opportunities Corp. based in Dearborn County.
“There will be no gap in services whatsoever,” Thompson said.
Childhood Connections, which has operated in Bartholomew County for about 12 years, provides local residents with referrals to child care providers and also offers training and services to child care professionals. After the change, the only program Childhood Connections will continue to operate is Route 21, which focuses on helping pregnant and parenting teens get ready for college, work and life, Adams said.
In 2011, Childhood Connections provided education and referrals to 278 families in Bartholomew County, Adams said. She said the Bartholomew County number, which is 50 percent of the total referrals for the 10-county area, does not include the parents who attended training on topics such as safe sleep and parenting.
Childhood Connections also trained more than 201 child care professionals in Bartholomew County last year, which is 25 percent of the professionals trained in the 10-county area. The training focused on business startup, licensing, curriculum, developmentally appropriate practice, early childhood standards and best practices.
“Bartholomew County’s demand for services from the child care resource and referral program has been high,” Adams said.
Children Inc., a United Way certified agency that provides child care in Bartholomew County, has relied on Childhood Connections for resources, training and referrals, said Brenda Flanagan, director of Children Inc. She said the staff at Children Inc. is unsure of how the restructuring is going to affect their agency.
“We just know locally we won’t have their presence in the community,” Flanagan said. “We just think it’s a change that is feeling awkward right now.”
She said she appreciated having a referral agency in the county because it better understands the needs of the community and how local child care providers operated. It also was handy for borrowing training materials or scheduling training in areas when needed, Flanagan said.
“Even though I feel like I’m already missing them, I don’t think I know the extent of how much we will miss them,” she said.
Mindy Smith, director of Little Lambs Child Care Ministry and a former Childhood Connections board member, said she anticipates that local parents and child care providers will continue to receive the same services after the restructuring.
Little Lambs staff has received training in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, better baby care and child care activities, Smith said.
“I don’t think there will be a lot of changes from what I am gathering,” she said.
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