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Contest to allot $1 million to address Indiana ‘child care deserts’

$1 million to fight “child care deserts” in Indiana

David Williams | News 8 at 6 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A competition is underway that offers $1 million to help end what are called “child care deserts” in Indiana.

Patriece Jefferson, a mother of two, knows it isn’t always easy to find good child care. “It is kind of hard. You’ve just got to find the right place that you feel fits your needs and the kids’ needs, you know?”

Jefferson said she remembers the price of child care once she found a good place.

“My daughter’s in preschool” now, Jefferson said. “When she was in day care, it was, like, how much a week, like $150?”

Maureen Weber said the need is real. She is president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana, billed as Indiana’s oldest and largest early childhood education nonprofit.

“We’ve heard in the Crawfordsville area, for example, of families traveling 45 minutes or more to be able to drop their child off at a high-quality setting,” Weber said.

“When it’s not available, that creates a two-generational problem. That just means its hard for parents to have the options they need to be able to work if they don’t know their children are in a safe high-quality learning environment,” Weber said. “Then children are missing out on the opportunity to develop those ‘foundational’ skills.”

Early Learning Indiana has received a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment.

Early Learning Indiana is going to give the money to Indiana communities to create day care centers in “child care deserts.”

“Almost half of the state of Indiana is comprised of ‘child care deserts,’” Weber said. “Those are places where there’s no more than one early-learning seat available for three children in that community.”

“We hope to award 10 or more grants of maybe up to $100,000 or more for really compelling proposals.” Weber said.

The CEO and president said child care centers created from the competition will be locally owned and operated.

Details for submitting proposals is available online. Proposals are due by Sept. 13.

She added that proposals should include innovative ideas to combat “child care deserts.” For example, Weber said, the challenge includes knocking down day care costs.

“Our hope is that by providing more family access to high-quality care, that they’ll have the opportunity to have affordable options right there in their back yard.” Weber said.