Members of the Effingham County Child Care Research Committee gathered for a long evening of work this week, attempting to address the child care shortage in Effingham County.
The committee was formed by Effingham County Council to address child care issues in Effingham County. Committee members worked to find answers and possible solutions to problems in the child care industry. A report is being drawn up to be presented to the Board of Directors at the end of its mission.
Committee chair Courtney Yockey said the final document will include an executive summary.
“I started writing a full report,” Yockey said. “We try to summarize the general ideas and thoughts generated by the various committees.”
He said the committee’s work could continue after their final report to the county council and the committee would be disbanded.
“With the work this committee is doing, it doesn’t have to stop at county council,” Yockey said.
The committee reviewed submissions from three sub-committees exploring three areas of concern – recruiting and retaining workers, developing a 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.
Members of the retention subcommittee proposed a recruitment and retention program to help retain child care workers by offering financial incentives every six months, based on years of service at the same center.
The subcommittee also provided a table of incentives that cap when they reach 10 years of service. The program also noted that if a child care worker decides to move to another facility in Effingham County, the time spent at their current facility would not count and would have to start the incentive program from scratch. .
The main objective of the program would be to retain current educators and provide an incentive program to attract new educators.
Carla Holtz, owner and director of the Little Lambs Early Childhood Center of Effingham, who chairs the retention subcommittee, helped develop the program with subcommittee members, including Sasha Althoff, economic development specialist for the city of Effingham. ‘Effingham, and Megan Rewers, executive director of the crisis nursery.
“We believe we will be able to recruit workers with financial incentives to stay in the program,” Holtz said. “We believe this would allow child care companies to be able to fill our classrooms and fill our enrollments and, with incentives, get more people into the field when you have something to offer them.”
In the meantime, the committee heard from the Gap scholarship program subcommittee.
The mission of the Gap Scholarship Subcommittee is to provide proven 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 PACC assistance due to family income levels above the maximum monthly income allowed by the program. Connie Jerden, COO of CEFS, is chair of the subcommittee.
The localized gap assistance program would be known as the Effingham County Childcare Gap Scholarship Fund and administered by the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation. The subcommittee compiled a table of basic qualifications based on income levels that fall between 225% and 250% of the federal poverty guidelines. Jerden, who was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, estimates that 118 families in Effingham County would fall into the 225% and 250% income range.
Initially, the Gap Scholarship Program would cover 60 of the 118 families in Effingham County who fall within the range.
A third subcommittee for Strategic Business Planning has proposed a plan to expand and rebuild the capacity of Effingham County child care centers by offering strategic business planning to licensed child care providers, whether in home, in a daycare or 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 the CHILD project.
Incentives would be created under the proposed plan by offering $1,500 to each home-based supplier and new home-based supplier who implements a business strategy. Centers and new centers could receive a $5,000 incentive for committing to a strategic business plan.
Funding for the three proposed programs would come through the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation.