Ongoing local child care issues’ effects on area families, the local workforce, businesses and Columbus as a whole took center stage Wednesday at the Columbus Community Building.
The Columbus Area United Way hosted more than two dozen local leaders, including those from the City of Columbus, Platte County, Columbus Public Schools, Central Community College-Columbus, Centro Hispano, the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and other human health professionals, for a special presentation on early childhood care.
Speaking were Mike Feeken and Jodi Renee Giron of First Five Nebraska, which focuses on advancing early childhood care and learning opportunities through policy change, strategic partnerships and public education.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: First Five Nebraska's Mike Feeken talks about the importance of early childhood education and child care during a presentation hosted by the Columbus Area United Way on Wednesday in the Columbus Community Building.)
Child care is an ongoing issue across the country, including in Columbus, where steps have been taken with recent accomplishments like the Kramer Education Center.
“Everyone depends on someone who depends on child care,” Feeken stressed.
According to First Five Nebraska, child care is deemed affordable if it accounts for 7% or less of a family’s total income. That would mean a Nebraska family income of $170,857 annually.
The presentation sparked a conversation among attendees about what could be done to further solve the problem of child care beyond simply acknowledging it. Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley posed the question aloud to those in attendance.
“The discussion was interesting and timely. Child care is such a dynamic topic within our community right now,” Bulkley said, after the meeting. “Child care needs rank right up with our affordable housing and labor needs whenever we talk about major needs in Columbus.”
There was an acknowledgment of efforts in the area, such as Columbus Community Hospital offering child care to its staff and the local chamber for getting into child care services before attendees touted CPS’ Kramer Education Center. The latter is a facility near downtown Columbus that houses a preschool area for 3- and 4-year-olds, a day care space and administrative offices for the public school district.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: First Five Nebraska's Mike Feeken talks about the importance of early childhood education and child care during a presentation hosted by the Columbus Area United Way on Wednesday in the Columbus Community Building. More than two dozen community leaders participated in the discussion.)
“But it doesn’t end there,” Columbus Area United Way Executive Director Hope Freshour said. “Because we still have those needs and those families that want to come to the community but might go elsewhere because there is that element of affordable and available child care.”
The group spoke about the complexity of the matter, noting there isn’t a simple solution. It’s not just about having affordable and available child care, as work needs to be done on finding solutions for home-based care, and center-based care, elevating the child care profession as a whole and the living wage for it.
“Those are all complex things and I don’t have the answer to them, but I know collectively we do,” Freshour said. “And there’s this ripple effect. If people weren’t able to show up to work because they don’t have affordable child care, how does that affect you? How does that affect your business? Etc.”
Freshour, who also serves on the Columbus City Council, said one of the local United Way’s objectives is to address kindergarten readiness. Raising awareness for equitable early childhood care falls in line with that mission, she noted, which is why the presentation and discussion were so critical.
“I feel the presentation itself went really well,” Freshour said.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: First Five Nebraska's Jodi Renee Giron talks about the importance of early childhood education and child care during a presentation hosted by the Columbus Area United Way on Wednesday in the Columbus Community Building.)
If you’re interested in being part of ongoing discussions regarding child care, contact Freshour at firstname.lastname@example.org or United Way Collective Impact Director Roberta Miksch at email@example.com.
Bulkley said he appreciated the conversation on Wednesday.
“Anything we can do to highlight this is huge, and that’s what today’s meeting was all about,” the mayor said. “We need to recognize the need, recognizing those currently providing these services and work within whatever avenues we can to bring awareness to the profession.”
For more information on First Five Nebraska and its mission, visit its website by clicking here.
The Community Room in the Columbus Community Building is available to rent for meetings and social gatherings. Contact Community Coordinator Elley Coffin at Elley.Coffin@columbusne.us.
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