The USD 470 Early Literacy Initiative, Child Start, Inc., and Cowley College teamed up recently to host two important events in an effort to address rural childcare concerns, according to a press release from the school district.
On November 3, the team hosted a Child Care for Business Luncheon in which 20 representatives from area employers attended to learn more about options available to promote childcare and other family-friendly workplace policies.
Employers represented in attendance included: City of Arkansas City, Cowley First, Cowley College, SCK Health, Sumner County 911, Sumner County Hospital, USD 470, Western Industries Plastic LLC, and William Newton Hospital, amongst others. Various policies were promoted at the event, including: the Child Day Care Assistance Tax Credit for businesses, Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), flexible work scheduling, secure scheduling, lactation rooms, and employee schedule control.
The takeaway message was that supporting families with childcare challenges secures a stronger workforce, USD 470 says. Keith Lawing, President and CEO of the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, Inc. said of Kansas parents with children age five and younger, 12.6 percent had to quit a job, not take a job, or greatly change their job because of problems with childcare in 2020.
“We want employers to know there are tools and partnerships to help support workers with childcare challenges. Attracting and retaining a quality workforce means that we have to support families,” Lawing said. “There is tremendous economic potential if Kansas communities can step up to solve the childcare challenge.”
The second event on November 5 was the Cowley CARE Conference for area childcare providers.
The conference was designed to deliver continuous learning and professional development to childcare providers on the following topics: preventing challenging behaviors, understanding age-appropriate behaviors, school readiness and early literacy. Childcare providers could earn eight hours of professional development credit towards their annual licensing requirement. A total of 21 area childcare providers participated.
USD 470 entities involved in the effort included Head Start as session presenter and the Early Literacy Initiative, funded by the Kansas Health Foundation, who provided free STEM toys and board books. Other presenting partners included: Cowley College Early Childhood Education, Parents as First Teachers, First Day Learning, and the Winfield Public Library. The City-Cowley County Health Department Child Care Licensing program donated breakfast for the event.
“I look forward to this event each year. This is a great way to support local child care providers with tools and learning that will enhance their centers and home businesses and heighten the quality of care that children in our community receive,” said Janet Davidson, Director of Development and Child Care at Cowley College.
To learn more about early childhood efforts in our community, visit https://www.usd470.com/prek.