Addressing Child Care in Effingham County: Initiative takes aim at gap in availability

February 8, 2021

From the Effingham Daily News, read the full article here:

Effingham is one of the first five communities in Illinois to participate in a state-wide program aimed at expanding access to childcare programs and developing new ones. This could address an ongoing problem facing Effingham’s parents: the “slot gap.”

The slot gap is a term used to describe the difference between the number of children who might need childcare and the number of theoretically available slots across all childcare options: daycare centers, Head Start programs, licensed in-home daycare, and other options.
Community Based Planning is a methodology of addressing complex issues which relies on bringing existing community leaders together to collaborate in identifying solutions.

“How can groups coordinate together?” asked Brittain Ayres in an interview. She’s a program’s manager with Illinois Action for Children who is helping lead this project.

“At the end of the project, the goal is to have the community have a plan,” she said.

This project is part of a series of programs funded by a $3.7 million grant from the federal government that the state received in 2019. The grant comes from the Department of Health and Human Services and is earmarked for particular programs to address needs related to childcare for children up to age five. Other programs the state is doing through this grant include workforce development, strengthening existing programs, and collecting and sharing data.

Having communities plan their own solutions instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach is a central point of this endeavor.

“One thing I really love about this project is that it’s tailored to each community,” Ayres said. “One of the key values we have at Illinois Action for children and as part of this state-wide effort is that the parents and providers all have a role.”

As the project goes on, Ayres says that more of the community will become involved, through things like interviews, surveys, or focus groups, but that the planning group needs to make decisions about that together.

“You can have stakeholders as experts,” she said. “But parents are the ones with lived experience.”