There’s a child care shortage in Iowa. On average, one in two children go without access to affordable, quality child care. Our state has lost 42% of its child care businesses over the past five years. Child care is a family issue, a workforce issue and a community issue. Collaborative efforts are necessary to make a difference. Members of the community from across Linn County came together recently for a conversation regarding solutions for this issue.
In 2015, Iowa Women’s Foundation embarked on a state-wide tour to find out why women and girls in Iowa are struggling and what barriers are affecting their success. In nine of 18 communities visited, lack of access to affordable, quality child care was identified as the number one priority.
Business leaders, daycare providers, higher education professionals, members of rural communities, elected officials, K-12 educators, health care professionals and small business owners from across Linn County gathered last month to start a community conversation on solutions to help solve the child care shortage. The event was presented by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Iowa Women’s Foundation and Linn County Early Childhood Iowa.
The goal of the workshop was for participants to become familiar with state and local data on child care challenges, discuss solutions to figure out which are feasible to implement here, and determine next steps. Solutions were discussed and five rose to the top of the priority list:
- Business + Child Care: increase the number of businesses that establish employer-provided, subsized, or co-op child care for employees
- Build New and Expand Existing Child Care Centers
- Child Care Entrepreneurs: support and incentivize programs that maintain current child care entrepreneurs and help more people become entrepreneurs by starting an in-home registered child care business or opening a child care center
- Establishing Before and After School Programs
Child Care for 2nd and 3rd Shift Workers: address the child care needs of employees outside of the 9 a.m. -5 p.m. hours.
The Economic Alliance’s mission is to drive economic, workforce and population growth strategies and to help businesses succeed. Access to quality, affordable child care makes our region and employers more attractive to potential residents, it means businesses have higher employee retention, and employees are more productive when they can be on time and present at work. We will be intimately involved in next steps of the Business and Child Care solution, and likely influential in the other four solutions as well.
Cedar Rapids MedQuarter Moves Forward on Child Care Facility Feasibility Study
Like many other employers in ICR Iowa, employers in the MedQuarter Regional Medical District recognize the impact that lack of access to quality and affordable child care can have on employee recruitment and retention. There are hundreds of qualified health care workers not seeking work in order to stay at home with their children, and others who leave employment when their child care arrangements unravel. Several of the large employers in the District have examined possible ways they could assist their employees with child care through on-site providers, expense sharing and more, but the challenges and expenses are too great for any one employer to take on individually. After reviewing the issue, and learning of other efforts in other communities, the MedQuarter decided to consider addressing the issue as a District.
Working with the City of Cedar Rapids, the MedQuarter released a Request For Proposals for qualified consulting firms to complete a feasibility study for a District child care center. The study will assess the demand for child care services for both health care workers and others employed in the District, outline strategies to implement high quality child care services and minimize long term costs, among other factors.
The MedQuarter Commission selected Mills Consulting Group of Framingham, MA to conduct the feasibility study. The first step is a Child Care Needs Assessment Survey which was sent recently to MedQuarter employers to distribute to their employees. The entire feasibility study and corresponding recommendation are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
For more information on the MedQuarter child care feasibility study, contact MedQuarter Executive Director Phil Wasta at email@example.com.