Originally published in the Spring 2022 Issue of Kansas Child Magazine.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, headlines about the shortage of child care and the high cost for families have proliferated. Many Kansas families aren’t just hearing about it; they’re experiencing it too. These concerns aren’t new, but they’ve been highlighted by the pandemic’s economic impact on our communities.
Fortunately, there’s been new interest in and financial support for maintaining and increasing the number of child care programs in our state. But we can’t just increase child care slots. The ultimate goal is for all programs to provide high-quality care to children.
A child’s brain grows the fastest from birth through age 5.
These skills then boost their success in school and minimize their need for special education services.
What Makes a Quality Program
To determine the quality of a child care program, families should look for several characteristics:
- Caregivers have positive relationships with children and are responsive to their needs.
- Smaller classes or group sizes allow for more one-on-one interaction and supervision.
- Health and safety guidelines are followed.
- Teachers and caregivers have education and ongoing training in the early childhood field.
- Age-appropriate books, toys, and materials are available to promote children’s learning.
- Parents receive consistent communication and opportunities to get involved.
How to Find Quality Care
To help families learn about and find quality child care, Child Care Aware of Kansas maintains a database of licensed child care programs. They offer a list of child care referrals in the family’s area, as well as a quality-care checklist to consult when researching and interviewing providers. Families can also view annual inspection results for licensed child care programs on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) website. To begin your search, call 877-678-2548 or visit ks.childcareaware.org/childcaresearch for assistance and resources.
Recruiting New Providers
New grant opportunities designed to recruit child care providers are now available. Start-up assistance and coaching in the areas of health, safety, and wellness is being offered to newly licensed child care providers. If you’re struggling to find care and want to stay home with your child, this new grant may help you start your own child care business. To learn more, visit the Child Care Health Consultant Network.
Advocacy Opportunities for Families
While there is currently momentum and support across the state to improve child care accessibility and quality in Kansas, it’s important for policymakers to hear directly from families. Families can share their perspectives and experiences — especially the challenges they’ve faced and their need for high-quality care — by calling 855-750-3343 to connect with the regional Child Care Resource and Referral Outreach and Engagement Coordinator. The coordinator can also connect families with early childhood task forces in their area. Another way families can advocate for accessible, affordable, quality child care is by reaching out to their local chamber of commerce and government representatives.
Even though there is still much work to be done to increase the quantity and quality of child care in our state, it’s heartening to see so much interest and support across the state. In the end, increasing high-quality child care options will see our children benefit from care in positive and safe learning environments.