Child Care Options: Seeking solutions to county’s shortage | Local News


Members of the Effingham County Child Care Research Committee met for an extended evening of work this week, attempting to address the shortage of child care in Effingham County.

The committee was formed by the Effingham County Board to address the issues of child care in Effingham County. Members of the committee have worked to find answers and possible solutions to problems in the child care industry. A report is being developed to present to the board at the completion of their mission.

Committee Chair Courtney Yockey said the final document would include an executive summary.

“I have started putting together a comprehensive report,” Yockey said. “We are trying to sum up the general ideas and thoughts generated from the various committees.”

He said the work of the committee could continue after their final report to county board and the committee is dissolved.

“With the work this committee is doing it doesn’t have to stop at the county board,” Yockey said.

The committee reviewed presentations from three subcommittees exploring three areas of concern – recruitment and retention for workers, development of a gap scholarship program for select families seeking child care who do not qualify for the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program and strategic business planning for child care providers in Effingham County.

Retention subcommittee members proposed a recruitment and retention program to help keep child care workers by offing financial incentives every six months, based on the years of service at the same child care facility.

The subcommittee also provided a table of incentives that cap when they reach 10 years of service. The program also noted if a child care worker decides moves to another facility in Effingham County, the time they put in at their current facility would not count and would have to re-start the incentive program from scratch.

The main program objective would be to retain current childcare workers and provide an incentive program to attract new workers.

Carla Holtz, owner and director of Little Lambs Early Childhood Center of Effingham, who serves as chairman of the retention subcommittee, helped develop the program along with subcommittee members including Sasha Althoff, economic development specialist for the City of Effingham, and Megan Rewers, executive director of Crisis Nursery.

“We believe we will be able to recruit workers with financial incentives to stay in the program,” Holtz said. “We think this would sustain the child care businesses to be able to fill our classrooms and fill up our enrollment and with incentives draw more people into the field when you something to offer them.”

Meanwhile, the committee heard from the Gap Scholarship program subcommittee.

The mission of the Gap Scholarship subcommittee is to proved support to families who do not qualify for the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).

A proposed Gap program would work with families who are officially denied CCAP assistance due to the family income level is over the maximum monthly income allowed by the program. Connie Jerden, COO of CEFS, is chairman of the subcommittee.

The localized gap assistance program would be known as “Effingham County Childcare Gap Scholarship Fund” and administered through the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation. The subcommittee set up a table of basic qualifications based on the income levels that fall within 225% and 250% range of federal poverty guidelines. Jerden, who was not in attendance of Tuesday’s meeting, estimates 118 families in Effingham County would fall into the 225 percent and 250 percent income range.

Initially the Gap Scholarship program would cover 60 of the 118 families in Effingham County that fall within the range.

A third subcommittee for Strategic Business Planning proposed a plan to expand and rebuild the capacity of Effingham County child care facilities by offering strategic business planning for licensed child care providers whether they be in-home, child care center or a Crisis Nursery.

The plan would help retain existing child care facilities and promote the sustainability of the child care industry in Effingham County. A 12-hour workshop program would be developed by Courtney Hatcher, recruitment and quality specialist for Project CHILD.

Incentives would be created through the proposed plan by offering $1,500 to each in-home provider and new in-home provider who implements a business strategy. Child care centers and new child care centers could receive an incentive of $5,000 for committing to a strategic business plan.

Funding for the three proposed programs would go through the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation.

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