Leelanau County has long struggled to find affordable, quality child care available. This has an impact on the local economy and may even discourage young people from settling in the area.
the Leelanau Early Childhood Development Commission (LECDC) was formed years ago to help resolve the crisis – experienced locally and nationally.
LECDC requested and received $318,000 to bring more child care options to the county. The grant is from the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) to develop a model to help five Leelanau County residents who want to start child care businesses.
“You have a lot of people coming to this area which is good, but when you look at capacity and look at childcare, you see more slots unavailable than available,” says member Heidi Kruse. of the LECDC council. “If we are going to maintain economic viability and have these families stay here, we need to be able to come together as a community to solve this problem.
Amanda Yin felt the need for childcare herself, after having her daughter several years ago she decided to freelance as a graphic designer while caring for her daughter who had mental health issues. sensory processing.
“I got very interested in early childhood development, how the brain develops at that age, to try to figure out what was going on. And then it became a passion,” says Yin.
Yin is now one of many people signed up for the Infant and Toddler Childcare Startup. She was mentored through the licensing and application process to start her own child care business.
“This program helps potential vendors cover all of their start-up costs,” says Patricia Soutas-Little, Chair of the Board and CEO of LECDC. “It also provides coaches to help them through the process, coaches to help them through the licensing process.
“Through the grant, we have the opportunity to help families find that support and hopefully economically put those families back to work for people who are out of work because their home is busy. of their children.”
This is a collaborative effort led by the Leelanau Early Childhood Development Commission, with partners Leelanau Children’s Center and the Leelanau Peninsula Economic Foundation. They are actively working on a county-based model that helps culturally and economically diverse eligible adults successfully start and operate profitable child care businesses, which provide infant and toddler care for families who working.
Yin’s business may not be based at her home south of Bingham, but she will look to provide childcare for infants and toddlers and ‘for as many hours as possible’.
“There are a lot of people from different walks of life, and there is such a rich history in this area,” Yin says. “Because it is, we want to make sure that people, whatever their work schedule; whether it’s a hospital shift, whether they work in schools, whether they need to go out at night or something like that, we want to provide them with child care. children, because it is the basis for them to flourish as a family.
The program aims to provide childcare opportunities in Northport, Sutton’s Bay, Maple City and Elmwood, which are the areas the LECDC has identified as having the greatest need.
“If you locate the centers in a way that they meet some of these parameters, you’ll probably be able to be more convenient for people than what we typically have,” Soutas-Little says.
The grant supports five people who hope to open a business. Six people initially applied, but only five moved forward due to the requirement that they had to live in Leelanau County.
The sustainability of the program will require the support of the community.
“Until we have a sustainable source of funding, whether it’s the school system or whatever, it’s always going to be a problem because it’s a profession without a natural and sustainable source of funding to support it at the level she needs to be supported,” says Soutas-Little.
To be able to support the growth of the region and its economy, affordable and quality childcare services are a necessity, according to Yin.
“For our society to function properly, it should be based on child care. It should be based on flexibility for working families and for children to get the best possible care, because it’s such an impact, full time, in their lives,” Yin says. from different backgrounds, of all different socio-economic statuses, every child should have a good place to go.
In the meantime, Yin will continue to work on her license and secure a place for her business. She will also be working on her Masters in Early Childhood Education this summer, as well as an internship at the Early Childcare Center at Children’s House in Traverse City.
She hopes to open her business in the fall, and many of her registered colleagues may open in late 2022.