SPENCER, Iowa (KTIV) – The need for child care providers is a growing concern not just across the nation, but particularly in the state of Iowa.
Officials with Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral say the state has lost 42 percent of child care providers within the last five years.
Why the decline? Officials say smaller home childcare services may be finding jobs elsewhere or retiring.
Officials say the need for childcare services is creating problems for parents.
“The parents have the issue that they need to find childcare, but what community partners can make a difference,” said Melissa Juhl, Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral. “It’s really not affordable for centers to be operating on their own without some type of assistance. So, can other non-profits in the community help, can churches help, can businesses help? We really need to look at all kinds of solutions to the problem.”
Thanks to a new addition to Sacred Heart School in Spencer, Iowa, some parents now have a place to take their children during the day.
“Families needed reliable childcare, ideally they need childcare for infants on up,” said Sheriffa Jones, Director of Stewardship and Development at Sacred Heart Church and School.
Jones says the school recognized the growing need for child care services in the area. So they worked to create a facility that could help out area parents.
“The response has certainly exceeded our expectations. We anticipated within like 2 and half years of being fully operational, that we would be full,” said Jones. “We have been full this first year of operation.”
The facility in Spencer accepts two and three-year-olds. In their first year of operation, the facility currently has 56 kids in their care.
Jones says it took years of planning to make this a reality.
“As rural communities are working to stay vibrant, we need to be able to attract young people to our communities,” said Jones. “And young people have families and in order for them to feel like they can take on jobs and be successful in raising a family and living in a small community, they need to have reliable childcare.”
School officials say this has been a great addition to the Spencer community. But they add that there’s still a need for a place for infants to go.
“I think there’s still that push for parents that need childcare for infants and one-year-olds. But, that does get a little bit, a little bit more, tricky in terms of making sure that you can really provide excellent childcare and meeting the guidelines set forth by the state,” said Jones.
While the program at Sacred Heart is just for a specific group, Sacred Heart officials say it was important to see what surrounding communities were doing in terms of child care.
They’re hoping to be an example for other communities.
“I’m sure that there are other schools that are now going to continue to look to us as an example, especially for the early childhood center and especially a facility that’s a little newer than a few of the others,” said Jones.
Before building their addition, Sacred Heart reached out to community members for feedback on what the greatest needs were.
Child care costs have also gone up in the past five years, according to Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral.
They say in Woodbury County the cost has gone up 10 percent since 2013 for an infant in a child development home. The average cost is nearly $135 a week.
Meanwhile, the price to place your child in a licensed center has stayed consistent over the past five years. The average weekly cost is $162.