A new childcare center opening in Keokuk this week will eventually offer space for 110 kids.
Advocates say the program is a much-needed step in addressing what they call a chronic shortage. Shelley Oltmans directs the local chamber of commerce and is leading the new childcare center. Otlmans says organizations in her area and across the state are becoming more aware of the issue.
“Community and economic development organizations, school districts, community non-profits, other organizations in communities, employers are realizing that this crisis is impacting our community in more than just not having care for children, but also in the aspect of having employees,” she says.
The new center will start with a small group of two-to-five-year-olds and scale up from there, with plans to accept infants soon. Oltmans says communities across the state are facing a chronic shortage of care. “It’s not just about early childhood care, it’s about workforce. It’s about the economic viabilities of our communities. It’s about the attractiveness of our communities,” she says. “Somebody who comes from outside, if they can’t find childcare and they have a two spouse working household, they’re not going to come!”
Advocates say the shortage of childcare poses a safety risk for kids and a strain on families, especially working parents. Keokuk saw a large childcare center close last year. According to state numbers, southeast Iowa lost 43% of its childcare slots between 2013 and 2018.
(Thanks to Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)