Linking families gets first IWF child care grant

Stanek: ‘Child care is a vital part of our local economy’

The first grant from a new Child Care Collaborative Fund will go to Linking Families and Communities in Fort Dodge, the Iowa Women’s Foundation announced late last week.

Child care in Fort Dodge was a top need cited by local leaders during a “She Matters: We Listen and Iowa Wins Tour,” organized and presented by the IWF.

“Child care is a vital part of our local economy,” said Elizabeth Stanek, of Linking Families and Communities in Fort Dodge. “It enables parents to go to work or school; therefore, it is an essential support service for business and industry.”

The grant is for $10,000.

According to Stanek, the funding will be used to engage Allers Associates Architects PC to conduct predesign work of an expansion to the Community Early Learning Center, 1315 S. 24th St., as well as a new child care center.

Stanek said the predesign work will include the following:

• An informed walk-through of the existing facility to observe the validity of the dimensions shown on the existing blueprints.

• Preparation of schematic design drawings for both the addition and the new center. The drawing will include floor plans and an exterior 3-D rendering of each.

• Preparation of an opinion of probable construction costs for each center based on the schematic design drawings.

• Preparation of a code study to review the proposed work relative to the addition to the existing center.

“Once the predesign work has been completed and probable construction costs are known, fundraising for both projects will begin,” Stanek said. “Much support will be needed to see these projects to completion.”

Stanek said the Child Care Collaborative Fund was created this year after child care was found to be one of the top two barriers facing women during the IWF’s focus group stops in 18 Iowa communities.

Fort Dodge, in particular, shared its struggles with child care in the community.

On a return stop in 2016, the IWF representatives continued to hear about child care struggles.

But, too, the IWF at that time became aware of a local Child Care Feasibility Study that was completed in November 2016.

Among its key finding:

• There is a local shortage of 1,638 child care spaces;

• 86 percent of families with children under the age of 6 have all parents working; in the state of Iowa, that statistic is 76 percent; it is 66 percent in the US;

• There is a growing population of adults in their child-bearing years, from 25 to 34 years old.

“Due to the large shortfall of child care spaces, there is not a single solution that will close the gap between supply and demand, there are many and the community needs them all,” Stanek said.

She said the objectives — or solutions — of a Fort Dodge Child Care Initiative are to:

• Recruit and retain child development homes, expand existing licensed child care centers, and support or create new licensed child care centers.

“Quality child care is key to a strong, thriving community as it supports working families and provides care and education to children during the largest period of brain development, setting the stage for children’s future success and the success of the future workforce,” Stanek said.

The Child Care Feasibility Study was supported by Boehringer-Ingelheim Vetmedica, C & S Products, Cargill, the city of Fort Dodge, Fort Dodge Community School District, Friendship Haven, Iowa Central Community College, UnityPoint — Trinity Regional Medical Center, and Linking Families and Communities.

“The IWF improves the lives of Iowa’s women and girls through economic self-sufficiency,” according to its media materials. “We work to break down economic barriers that impact women’s lives and the well-being of their families. Because we believe when women are successful, their families and communities will be as well.”