Washington County leaders work to close gap in childcare services

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 10:40 PM CST
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KALONA, Iowa (KCRG) - A group of Washington County leaders is brainstorming ways to add quality childcare services to the area.

A study on the county showed in November of 2021, there were 754 spaces for childcare. But the study showed that only accounted for half of the more than 1500 children needing regulated care.

Director of DHWL Early Childhood Area Tasha Beghtol says the issue isn’t unique. Communities across Iowa are having conversations about how to create more space for childcare services. “In childcare, which I view as probably the most important job, teachers of children zero to five- and they are teachers, they’re not babysitters, that’s not what we’re talking about,” says Beghtol. “They’re early childhood educators and they do some of the hardest jobs. And one of the most important jobs. And they are pretty much the lowest paid folks.”

Pleasantview Home is a long term care facility in Kalona. As it continues to grow, Executive Director Jeffery Schmidt says the need for childcare directly impacted their ability to hire. So, Schmidt joined the table looking for solutions. “How could we facilitate the childcare, realizing that even if we were to provide, say, vouchers for those services, the problem is there’s nowhere to cash those vouchers in. There’s literally not enough spots available,” says Schmidt.

One idea they’re working on is to use Pleasantview Home’s expansion to include a daycare on the property, that could implement intergenerational care. That’s when older adults and children get programming and interact at the same place. “Anyone who’s got little kids and grandparents knows how those two interact with one another very well. And so it it. It’s easy to see how that you can do that in in a more structured environment,” says Schmidt.

Some solutions may be years in the making. But Beghtol says it’s important to have local conversations about how to create quality childcare in every community, saying “It’s about getting all of the players to the table and talking about what our solutions that are best for the Community that that only the local people know what’s best for their community.”