First published in the Lincoln Sentinel, September 29, 2016
One thing abundantly clear is that we need more daycare providers in the county. Our need seems to be reaching a critical level with stressors coming from two different directions. One direction is from the decreased number of daycare options available. In all of Lincoln County, we are now down to three full-time licensed daycare providers. Each of the providers are operating at maximum allowable capacity and simply cannot accept any more children.
The other direction is coming from the number of children in the county. Our pre-school enrollment numbers have been strong the last few years with numbers ranging between 28-38 children. If this is a trend, which I hope it is, we have more children around and more on the way. That’s great! We love children! But we need some place for them to be looked after when the parents are working.
So with great need comes great opportunity, and business opportunity at that! It’s easy to forget daycares are businesses and people make livings from this business. Even though there is a myth there are no jobs in the county, here is yet another classic case of a huge opportunity to create your own job. The demand is certainly there.
A couple weeks ago I organized a meeting with representatives from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Child Care Aware, our current daycare providers and a few others interested individuals. We discussed many ideas but found consensus in a few areas:
- We need at least one full-time provider immediately just to handle the number of children parents are scrambling to find daycare for right now.
- We need at least one or two more full-time providers just to provide some cushion and options. If one provider gets sick, parents have a backup and can take their child to another provider. If someone moves to town or has a baby, there is an opening.
- Infants are the hardest to accommodate. The reason for this is that one infant takes two ‘slots’ at a licensed daycare. Although we all want more babies in the county, the more we have in daycare the less overall ‘slots’ for other children.
- Community daycare centers are probably not the answer. I know there are many parents who would love to have a big daycare center but the economics are just not there. They are the most expensive to build and operate and the most expensive option for parents. I’ve talked to various economic development directors also struggling with a lack of daycare and many use terms like “$400,000 to build”, “doesn’t cash flow” and “needs to be subsidized”. With the financial crunch we are all in, I just don’t see this being a viable option at this time.
Those are our thoughts from the meeting, but what are your thoughts? I am conducting a countywide survey to gather input from everyone on their current and future childcare needs. If you would like to take the survey, please visit the www.LiveLincolnCounty.com website (under Work > Business Opportunities > Childcare Providers), the Live Lincoln County Facebook page, or ask me to send you an email or hard copy of the survey. Your thoughts are important as we find a way to fill the need.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a daycare provider, please let me know. I would gladly point you towards information and resources to help get you started. Please feel free to stop by the LCEDF office in the county courthouse basement at 216 E. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln, give me a call at 785-524-8954, or email me at [email protected].
Kelly Larson, Executive Director
Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation