Throughout Kansas, numerous communities are seeking increased child care options. Often, these enhancements require collaborative community efforts to tackle local obstacles that hinder the availability of child care slots.
This article describes two success stories on how communities in Kansas made change happen to open the opportunity to increase child care capacity, and we provide a guide for coalitions across the state about how to address local child care challenges in their communities as well.
The City of Wichita and Saline County Tackle Specific Issues
The city of Wichita and Saline County created the potential for new child care slots while ensuring the safety and well-being of young children remained uncompromised.
Community partners in the city of Wichita identified a specific issue they could tackle in the short term: a zoning code restricting enrollment for home-based child care programs beyond state guidelines.
In Saline County, the Salina Area United Way identified two issues. The first was that childcare, in homes, had to be done in a residence, and the second was that group daycare homes were not approved without providers filing an application and appearing before the City Commissioners.
Inviting the Appropriate People to the Table
In the Wichita example, community stakeholders were successful in engaging a member of the city council to join their child care coalition. Early childhood professionals and city officials agreed this section of zoning code was unnecessary and ultimately limiting the community’s full child care capacity, so they changed it.
In Salina, representatives from the Salina Area United Way contacted their local zoning administrator to discuss the process of changing verbiage in the city zoning code.
The Opportunity for Advancement
As a result, in Wichita, nearly 300 local businesses can expand if they wish, and that could potentially open 600 child care slots within the community. Additionally, more Saline County daycares will have the opportunity to open their doors. With the opportunity for professional licensed child care providers having more availability, parents are free to work.
This approach could be replicated in communities across Kansas with similar restrictions to the city code. By collaborating across communities and industries to design new solutions, we can build a successful system that sets up our state — and our children — for a healthy and productive future.