Editorial: Efforts underway to address child care needs

Access to affordable child care consistently ranks as one of the most significant needs of young working families. Some recent developments on that front hold promise.

Last week, the community foundations of Bartholomew, Jackson and Jennings announced an upcoming series of town halls that will be part of an effort to study regional child-care challenges “and how those barriers can be confronted with a collaborative, regional approach.”

This will be a first step in a process that could lead to improved access to child care for working families in all three counties. By involving parents, child care providers, employers and other community partners, these town halls will be unprecedented opportunities to seek solutions.

The town hall meetings are scheduled from 5:30-8:30 p.m. as follows:

  • Jackson County: Tuesday, Feb. 27, Child Care Network Inc., 414 N. Chestnut St., Seymour.
  • Bartholomew County: Wednesday, Feb. 28, Columbus Learning Center, Summerville Room, 4555 Central Ave.
  • Jennings County: Thursday, Feb. 29, Jennings County High School, 800 W. Walnut St., North Vernon.

On-site child care, dinner and a stipend for participants will be provided in an effort to include as many voices as possible, organizers said. Parents and others interested in participating in any of these town halls should contact Kari Stattelman, director of consulting at First Children’s Financial, at [email protected].

As part of a grant from the Lilly Foundation, First Children’s Financial, a national leader in child-care business development and financing, has been contracted to work with The Community Foundation of Jackson County, Jennings County Community Foundation, Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, the Community Education Coalition’s Early Learning Initiative, Ivy Tech Columbus, Child Care Network Inc. and Jennings County School Corp. to engage each county in conversations around the strengths and challenges their community has to support sustainable child-care options.

We encourage stakeholders interested in child care to participate in these meetings. More voices from more perspectives are sure to yield better prospects for solutions.

Separately, a bill moving through the legislature could help expand child care services with a regulatory tweak.

House Bill 1102, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, would allow home-based providers to supervise up to seven children before licensing, an increase from the current maximum of five.

Indiana Capital Chronicle reported last week the bill moved from committee to the full Senate on an 8-2 vote. Two Democrats expressed concerns because the bill exempts up to four children of a care provider, meaning there could be up to 11 children in an unregulated day-care setting.

HB1102 is not a perfect bill, but it would expand child care where service is already being provided, and we believe parents know best in choosing a child care placement.

Reliable, affordable and sustainable child care options help not just working parents and their children. They also benefit employers and the community. We have a long way to go to address these needs, but the upcoming town halls in particular are steps in the right direction.