Local agency exploring idea for public child care center


Child Care Network is reaching out to the community for input as it explores the idea of opening a public child care center in Jackson County.

Kate Garrity, executive director of the local nonprofit agency, said data from residents are needed to support future fundraising efforts for the proposed project.

By filling out an online survey at childcarenetworkinc.org, citizens can help provide information on what shifts they need child care, how far they are willing to drive for it and how much they are paying for such services now.

“That would definitely help if we had a lot of response so that we can show the data and that there really is a need, and then we can pitch the investment to the community,” she said.

The collected data will help determine details such as when the center should be open, where it should be located and how much it should cost families for their children to attend.

“There’s so much up in the air right now because it’s such a big project,” Garrity said. “It’s going to be a big undertaking to raise the funds for a building.”

Child Care Network is a finalist among 19 other organizations in the state competing for up to $100,000 in Early Learning Indiana grants to address the lack of child care options available. The awards will be announced in December.

Currently, there are only five licensed child care centers in Jackson County, including Head Start and four preschool classrooms operated by Child Care Network. There also are 15 homes and six churches that are licensed to provide child care services.

The agency used to operate Kasting House day care on South State Road 11 near Freeman Field Industrial Park, but that facility closed many years ago, she said.

According to the 2017 Kids Count Data Report, Jackson County has 12.7 child care spots available per 100 children, which calculates to 7.9 children per spot. An area having three or more children per child care spot is considered a child care desert. Jackson County is more than double the definition.

Child Care Network receives three to five calls daily from parents seeking child care, Garrity said.

“It’s frustrating for them because they can’t find child care, and it’s frustrating for us because we can’t help them,” she said.

In her previous position in Columbus, Garrity was able to plan and execute the opening of a child care center and has seen firsthand the difference it can make for children and parents when quality child care is available. She hopes to do the same in Jackson County.

A community planning team has met with representatives from major employers in the county, including Schneck Medical Center, industries and schools, to discuss how a child care center would benefit them.

“We are trying to work with manufacturers and other big companies in town to see what their employees need,” Garrity said. “Having consistent quality child care will allow parents to obtain or keep their employment, which will also strengthen the community.”

It also can help attract new businesses to locate to the area, she said.

The plan is to either purchase an existing building and modify it to meet the needs of a child care center or purchase land and build the center from the ground up, Garrity said.

The center would have the capacity to care for 120 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, she said. That would be first shift from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or possibly 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. to cover the majority of first shifts at local employers, Garrity said.

If opened up to second and third shifts, the number of children being served would increase to 180 to 200.

“Our planning team has heard from several individuals that there is a great need for child care for all shifts due to Seymour being such an industry town,” Garrity said.

Originally, Garrity had wanted the child care center to be open in January 2021, but that goal may be too soon, she said.

It would be expected the center would obtain the state’s Level 3 Paths to QUALITY designation in its first year, which means it’s a safe, nurturing and educational environment for children, Garrity said.

Not only would the facility serve children, but it would create a minimum of 40 new jobs, she said.

The $100,000 grant will help the project move forward, but Garrity said the entire project will cost significantly more.

Child Care Network is committed to help fund the project and plans to seek financial support from businesses and other entities in the community.

“I know for Child Care Network to really say that we’re 100% all in doing this, we would definitely need some community backing with the funding,” she said. “We are in good financial shape, but we want to keep it that way. We would prefer not to have to borrow money for this, so we would have to launch a pretty big capital campaign.”

On the Web

Child Care Network is asking the public to visit its website at childcarenetworkinc.org and fill out an online survey to help the agency determine the need for a public child care center in Jackson County.

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