LOWVILLE — Lewis and Jefferson counties are ahead of their efforts to increase registered child care opportunities. They have inspired other organizations and municipalities with their model and positive results so far.
There are potentially 72 more child care openings in the two counties if each of the program’s nine new undergraduate state-registered providers supports a full roster of children. As many as 136 new slots could arise from the 14 new home childcare businesses being developed in the second round of training which began on March 8.
“It works,” said Cathy C. Brodeur, director of the Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project at the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County. “It’s cutting-edge material. It’s exciting and it’s good for our families…and to be honest, it’s really encouraging because it’s been a long time since I’ve known (for the custody issue of children).
The four-pronged action plan to help grow licensed child care opportunities includes multi-faceted training; small local grants to new equipment suppliers; support for existing child care centers to increase the number of children they can serve; and the provision of “retention bonus” funds to help existing centers retain their care providers despite the continued displacement of the workforce in many sectors.
Lewis County was the catalyst for the program after targeting the lack of childcare services – which has become even more apparent during the pandemic – as a priority.
The county’s planning department and economic development entity, Naturally Lewis, approached Jefferson Community College, the planning board, and the small business development board to create the early-year child care project. last year. Jefferson County joined the team soon after.
Other counties and organizations noticed the program and demanded to know more.
Ms. Brodeur mentioned Oswego County; the Southern Adirondack Child Care Network which serves Hamilton, Warren and Washington counties; the Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance serving Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties and the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation; and the National Association of Counties have reached out to learn more about the program and its results. She and the program team have made presentations to many claimants, answering questions about how it all works.
The training, originally called the Regulated Home Child Care Training Bootcamp, was funded by each county’s Industrial Development Corporations and concluded in December.
Like Lewis County’s commitment of $200,000 to child development through American Rescue Plan Act funds last year, Jefferson County also committed rescue funds to the program – 809,000 $ – according to County Council Chairman William W. Johnson. Funds will be processed by the Jefferson County Local Development Corp.
“We all think child care is a very important part of the overall workforce and return to work,” he said.
The first free training session, held from June to December last year, offered participants a childcare allowance and the opportunity to take a free credit course on early childhood development at the Jefferson Community College.
Megan E. Pierce, of Adams, had been “watching the kids once in a while” for years when a friend, who is a registered home child care provider in Belleville, showed her a bootcamp message about the social networks and encouraged her to participate.
She started her business, Kidz Corner, in October, two months before the program ended, and has eight children aged 1 to 11 who come to her home for care.
Ms Pierce said she is halfway through the early years course at JCC where she is gaining “a better understanding of childcare and what it is to put children at ease and what they need”, although she thinks she is already on the right track.
“No child leaves here unhappy, I can tell you that. They almost cry when they have to leave and that’s always a good sign,” she said.
In Lewis County, Michelle L. LaPrade, Glenfield’s newest home child care professional, opened Shelly’s Smart Daycare in January. She has two babies, two toddlers and two school-age children.
Ms. LaPrade has been caring for children for over 20 years but had never registered. After finding out about the program on social media, she said she didn’t want to postpone it anymore.
“I thought (the training program) was fabulous,” she said. “I wish I had done that a long time ago.”
She also takes the JCC course and finds it “very interesting”.
The state limit for each home-based “family daycare” license is six children too young to attend school with no more than two infants under age 2 and two school-aged children, for a maximum of eight children. Enrollees in “family group child care” require two adults on duty and can have twice as many children.
The first training also created new home-based childcare businesses in Copenhagen, Carthage, Philadelphia and two in Watertown, Ms Brodeur said, although two participants never opened their childcare businesses and one got a job in a daycare center after completing training and business registration.
The ongoing training session could provide additional child care businesses in Theresa, Black River, Chaumont, LaFargeville, Philadelphia, Adams, Dexter, two in Adams Center, three in Carthage and in Lewis County, one in Lyons Falls and one in Lowville.
The training regiment includes the skills needed to meet state licensing requirements; assistance in negotiating registration and licensing bureaucracy; business planning and management mentoring; and health and safety courses like CPR training and first aid.
The program also offers $1,500 in local grants to help new business owners buy equipment and supplies in stages, according to Brodeur.
Neither Ms. Pierce nor Ms. LaPrade were yet aware of this possibility. The two women have already paid for start-up costs on their own, from smoke detectors to renovations.
For the one existing child care center in Lewis County and eight in Jefferson County, the program will provide up to $30,000 each for four new caregivers for one year and, to help existing child care centers retain employees, funds have been made available to provide up to $1,500 per year for employee retention bonuses.
Because the ongoing efforts to evolve from “child care deserts” into fertile ground for working parents seeking reliable child care involves a multi-faceted approach, additional steps are being taken. Lewis County Planning Director Casandra M. Buell and Naturally Lewis Executive Director Brittany L. Davis briefed county lawmakers on other opportunities during a health and wellness committee presentation. social services in mid-March.
“Childcare is a labor issue. It is an obstacle to employment. Employers need to start seeing childcare as a benefit and they need to adapt to approach childcare in different ways,” Ms Davis said. “It’s not always a monetary benefit. It’s often about changing the way you operate to meet the needs of families.
Ms. Davis said she is having conversations with employers across the county about how to view childcare as a benefit and possibly apply “out-of-the-box” thinking to lessen the conflict between the work and childcare, such as changing working hours. to better accommodate children on buses in the morning, offering childcare subsidies or creating an a la carte benefits menu with childcare as an option.
Ms Buell said “a lot is progressing. We explore center-based child care. We don’t want just one.
Although she didn’t go into specifics, County Executive Ryan M. Piche added that they were working with the Lewis County Health System and a national childcare agency, “looking into proximity to the hospital” and focusing on “the challenges of the night shift”. for child care.
He added that the county is also working with Fort Drum on the issue.
For more information on becoming a home child care provider, call Ms. Brodeur at 315-782-4900, ext. 240.