Uniting for Change: Child Care Community Partnership Grants Support Child Care in Kansas

In Kansas, just over 84,000 young children are potentially in need of child care. The shortage of affordable, high-quality child care in our state has far-reaching impacts on parents, employers, and communities across the state. Although these issues can be intimidating at first glance, promising solutions are already in the works.

The Ideas & Solutions blog is intended to provide a forum for the discussion of child care and early education issues and ideas. We hope to provoke thoughtful discussions within the field and to help those outside the field gain a better understanding of priorities and concerns.

Grassroots Community Work

Child Care Aware of Kansas and our network of CCR&R partners have been actively engaged in building community capacity to address local child care challenges since 2020. We connect everyone with a stake in child care – parents, child care providers, businesses, local and state leaders, and community members – to the information and ideas they need to take action.  Our child care experts work alongside community members to identify what’s working, what can be improved, and what’s needed to ensure the right mix of solutions are available at the right time.

Coalition Sparks Change

The Flint Hills Child Care Coalition in Marion County, Kansas, is one of many local success stories. This coalition began with a local leader, Leslie Allison, talking with some friends at a community gathering in a small town about one-fourth the size of Florence, his home community. “I jokingly asked where all these kids come from, and a parent also attending the event said she worked in Emporia, but there weren’t any child care options, so she moved to this much smaller town where they could find child care. That resonated with me. Florence is that way, and we don’t have anyone to care for the children. We found out we had people in our community in the same situation who we could help too if we bring some resources together,” he said.

Allison worked to form the Flint Hills Child Care Coalition, bringing together community leaders, city council members, a child care provider that is now an employee for the center, families, and many others. They quickly set off on a project to create new child care options in their community. They worked with members from the city council who offered to lease a building to the coalition for little cost.

With support from many volunteers, the coalition renovated the building to meet city codes and licensing regulations. These renovations included replacing windows and appliances, repairing plumbing and electrical, painting, adding fencing, and much more. Thanks to this support from the coalition members and the community, they will soon open the Flint Hills Child Care Center in Florence.

Increasing Child Care Capacity

The Flint Hills Child Care Coalition has been working very hard to ensure that families have access to affordable, high-quality child care. “So far, we have hired five people to work at the child care program. Every employment slot in a town of 450 people is a real plus for our community,” Allison said. “This project will provide an avenue to allow people within our community to improve their economic situation.”

The new child care facility will create 28 additional child care spaces for Florence and surrounding communities. “We should have fewer people traveling an hour to and from child care before they even start their work day,” Allison said, “and definitely less people going to live and work in other communities due to the lack of child care.”

The coalition’s efforts will have a significant impact on families with young children. “This is a child care desert, and many of the neighboring communities are in the same situation. It has been this way forever, but we are working to make a change to better our community,” Allison said.

Child Care Aware of Kansas Directly Impacts Project

Child Care Aware of Kansas worked directly with the Flint Hills Child Care Coalition, with funding and support from the Kansas Department for Children and Families. This partnership assisted the community in successfully opening their new child care facility. “What Child Care Aware of Kansas is doing is important to this area. It’s been a personal goal of mine that has come to fruition, so I appreciate the help with that,” Allison said. “It’s kind of like being a spark. I don’t have a lot of abilities, but at least I can help ignite and keep things going.” Allison added, “There was a storm here just yesterday, and two trees surrounding our child care property came down, but our building stayed intact. I think this symbolizes our efforts and that they will hold strong and be successful and weather the storm.”