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Parents reflect on difficulty of finding child care during SE Iowa Early Childhood Summit

GTNS photo by Grace King

Isaac Levya, 6, left and Niko Perez, 4, of Washington, check out the Iowa State University Extension booth during Family Fun Night at Iowa Wesleyan University on Friday, April 12. Family Fun Night was a part of the Southeast Iowa Early Childhood Summit, which addressed declines in child care centers and how employers and city leaders can support child care initiatives.
GTNS photo by Grace King Isaac Levya, 6, left and Niko Perez, 4, of Washington, check out the Iowa State University Extension booth during Family Fun Night at Iowa Wesleyan University on Friday, April 12. Family Fun Night was a part of the Southeast Iowa Early Childhood Summit, which addressed declines in child care centers and how employers and city leaders can support child care initiatives.
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Elizabeth Bohman, of Mt. Pleasant, now home-schools her children, but before she made that decision, she had to make the tough choice to stay home with her kids because she couldn’t find child care. She said her one option was a long waiting list.

“Very few places would allow you to take your children to work,” Bohman said.

The children’s grandmother has since moved in with Bohman and her husband to help care for the children. While that decision wasn’t entirely because of the lack of child care options in Mt. Pleasant “it was a huge part of it,” Bohman said.

Bohman isn’t alone in her search for child care in Henry County where there are 12 registered child development homes and five Department of Human Services licensed child care centers and preschools. That leaves only 595 total child care spaces to serve just over 3,000 children as of July 2018, according to Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral.

During the Southeast Iowa Early Childhood Summit at Iowa Wesleyan University on April 12-13, child care providers, educators, employers, city leaders and concerned citizens participated in activities to better understand why there have been significant declines in the number of child care providers in southeast Iowa and how they can get involved in supporting child care initiatives in their communities.

The Summit hosted a Family Fun Night on Friday, April 12, where every child received a free book from the Scholastic book fair, ate dinner hosted by international students at IW and had fun at interactive tables sponsored by the Mt. Pleasant Library, an early childhood mental health resource center called First Five, the Iowa State Extension office and other businesses.

As their children played, parents reflected on the difficult of finding child care.

Hailay Nichols and her husband, of Henry County, work different shifts to make sure one of them is always able to stay home with their four kids. It’s hard to seldom see her husband, Nichols said, but the sacrifice is worth it to make sure the kids are safe.

Nichols, who works as a CNA at Sunrise Terrace and at Optimae, said she doesn’t like being away from her children, but the work is rewarding and it sets a good example for them.

“There’s not too many (child care) options and some are school-based where the kids have to be three- or four-years-old to go,” Nichols said.

Sonia Levya, of Washington, said she had difficulty finding a child care center and in-home provider who was available to take her son when he was younger. All the in-home providers were full and the centers were expensive, she said.

Today, Levya said a lot of her friends who have children between one- and three-years-old decided to become stay at home parents because child care was just too expensive.

“If they did have great child care that wasn’t so crazy expensive, they could keep working as speech therapists and social workers,” Levya said. “They’re torn between their profession and parenting.”

Ginger Knisley, Early Childhood Iowa director for Lee and Van Buren counties, said that a years worth of infant child care is more expensive than college tuition.

Ki Krabill, of Mt. Pleasant, began operating her own in-home child care a year ago. While Krabill was aware of the limited child care resources in Mt. Pleasant, she decided to become an in-home provider, so she could say home with her five-year-old son Ryker.

Krabill said she gets “a few calls a week” from people asking if she has an opening. “(Child care) is very needed, especially weekend and third shift,” Krabill said.

Krabill is open 24/7 and is closed every other weekend.