Shortage Of Local Child Care Addressed

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A shortage of child care options in Stone County can impact a family’s financial situation and the economy of the community as a whole, according to Debbie Mize, director of Child Care Aware of Northcentral Arkansas, a community child care resource and referral program serving 14 counties.

The agency sponsored a community meeting in September to discuss the need for child care in Stone County.

The meeting was co-sponsored by City of Mountain View, Stone County and the AR Family Child Care Network.

Child care is one of the cornerstones to economic stability in our communities, Mize said. Lack of child care prevents parents from entering the workforce, and studies show that parents miss less work and are more productive at work when children are placed in a quality child care program. Also, children who have the experience of quality preschool enter kindergarten ready to learn and are more successful academically, she noted.

“Quality child care is a win for our families, our employers and our children,” Mize said.

A chart showing available licensed child care capacity in Stone County accompanies this story. It shows there is one facility accepting children under 30 months of age, and clients must qualify financially to be eligible.

The chart includes one licensed home, and does not include unregulated home care providers, who may care for up to five children without a license.

“We do not encourage that,” Mize said, “because we feel children should be in places where background checks are conducted, there is oversight, and child development training is required.”

There are no firm numbers to quantify the need, but the licensed home gets calls every day from parents needing infant/toddler care, she noted.

Facilities that accept older children have fairly short waiting lists.

A major obstacle in establishing care for younger children is the ratio of staff required, which increases costs. For preschoolers, the ratio is 18:1, whereas with infants it is 5:1, Mize said.

The American Rescue Plan offers funding for programs to offset setup costs and allow expansion and for new private/public partnerships to open new child care programs.

“The focus areas for expansion will be in infant/toddler and school age care. These ages reflect the greatest need for additional child care slots,” Mize noted.

“They could add on and really meet the need of the community,” she said.

Read the full story in the Oct. 20 issue.

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