How One Ohio County is Leveraging COVID Relief Funds to Expand Access to Quality Child Care

By: Commissioner Julie Ehemann


The Shelby County Commissioners have recently entered into a contract with 4C for Children to expand the supply of Family Child Care in Shelby County, Ohio. 4C for Children is part of the Ohio Child Care Resource & Referral Association (OCCRRA), serving 15 counties in Southwest Ohio and the Miami Valley region.


Factors that helped to determine this decision included noted workforce gaps in Shelby County, with many businesses struggling to find workers, and a lack of child care options in Shelby County. It is hoped that expanding child care options will result in an expanding workforce for the county, and thus fill in some of the workforce shortages.


In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 49% of children under the age of 5 in Shelby County were not receiving affordable high-quality child care. While Shelby County has approximately 25 preschools, there is a tremendous need for infant and toddler care. For example, one local provider recently had a waiting list in excess of 60 slots for their infant and toddler program. An additional goal of providing quality child care is to increase kindergarten readiness in Shelby County, as just 35% of kindergartners in the county enter the classroom ready to learn. Geographically, licensed center-based child care options are found only in the City of Sidney (the county seat), with the rest of the county lacking center-based options. Our hope is that new providers will be situated in some of the surrounding villages.

Commissioner Julie Ehemann

Utilizing funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in the amount of $231,000, Shelby County has made a commitment to find long-term solutions to the shortage of child care by partnering with 4C for Children. 4C will provide resources to stabilize and preserve current child care programs, expand current programs to include more children (either by creating additional space or by including second and third shift opportunities), and develop new programs. 4C will provide specialists and coaches who help throughout the recruitment process for the new and expanding programs, provide guidance with training and education to help current programs remain compliant with state licensing requirements, assist in engagement and compliance in the Step Up To Quality program, and provide guidance to help operators with management of the business aspects of their program.


Up to eight new programs will receive funding for start-up inspections and background checks; necessary equipment such as cots, cribs, and safety equipment; and essential intensive start-up training. Start-up training will utilize the All Our Kin Virtual Business Series, a 34-hour series specifically designed to help family child care educators develop business skills, which will be offered over a two-year period. Shelby County is hopeful the new programs will include five family child care sites and three child care centers.


4C and community stakeholders will be reaching out to the community to identify and recruit potential providers within the coming months. Our hope is that interest will be found with local employers and non-profits to help with the recruiting process. The project will be in process over the next two years.


As we move forward, we will be working to spread the message to the community of the dire need we have for quality child care. Only after there is a recognition of the problem can we engage others in working on the solution.

 

Julie Ehemann is a County Commissioner in Shelby County, Ohio.