Child care is essential to our children, our families, and our communities. The COVID-19 public health emergency highlighted and exacerbated the fragility of the current system and the urgent need for resources. There is a significant need in the county to increase the child care capacity, however, staffing shortages have many families living in child care ‘deserts’ due to the lack of regulated options.
In response to these needs, the Calumet County Board of Supervisors recently approved ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding for an Early Childhood Stabilization Program that will aid local providers. As part of this opportunity, Calumet County Health and Human Services have recently collaborated with Child Care Resource & Referral, Inc., based in Kimberly, WI, in providing support and resources to child care providers throughout the county. The total cost of this project is $689,783 and will include the following initiatives:
- Entry-level training opportunities and reimbursement of necessary hiring expenses
- Child care discounts for children of staff
- Sign-on bonus program for staff
- Quality Support Specialists to assist each child care facility
“This funding will allow our agency to focus resources on investing in seven group child care centers and eleven family child care homes to strengthen the child care system in Calumet County. This will help to ensure that families have equal access to quality child care by supporting regulated child care programs during and after the pandemic,” said Judith Olson, Executive Director, Child Care Resource & Referral.
In addition to assisting with parents’ equal access to high-quality child care and supporting the developmental and learning needs of children, this effort also aids in meeting parents’ employment needs and supporting a professionalized workforce that provides essential skilled work. According to Calumet County’s Community Economic Development Director, Mary Kohrell, “The availability of stable, quality child care options is one of the factors that makes hiring difficult for our local businesses. This program will help alleviate some of the most urgent shortages.”
Lynn Brenner, Calumet County Health & Human Services Deputy Director offered, “The importance of quality child care to the families of Calumet County is vital for our economy and the health and safety of our children. We are pleased to be able to make such a valuable impact and look forward to our continued partnership with Child Care Resource and Referral.” Child Care Resource & Referral will work collaboratively with the local child care programs in the County to meet the initiatives and goals specified within the approved project, which is set to launch in early 2022.