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Proclamation about raising awareness for child care shortage

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO — Mayor Joel Greer signs a proclamation declaring April 10-16 the Week of the Young Child. It is an annual event meant to raise awareness about the importance of early childhood development and child care services.

Mayor Joel Greer has seen the positive effects of quality child care and development first hand.

This is why he proclaimed Marshalltown will recognize the Week of the Young Child.

The Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Established in 1971, this marks the 50th anniversary.

The purpose of the week, which takes place April 10-16, is to raise awareness toward the importance of quality early childhood development and child care services.

“Part of it stems from watching our kids have good daycare and be ready for kindergarten and knowing that’s a challenge for other families who don’t have access to good daycare,” Greer said of why he thinks raising awareness is important.

Former Marshalltown High School teacher Jillian Herink reached out to Greer about making the mayoral proclamation. Herink is the executive director for the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children. She said Iowa is especially affected by a shrinking child care industry.

“Iowa is usually leading the nation in the percent of working parents with children under the age of 6,” Herink said. “At the same time we’re generally leading the nation in low unemployment percentages. So we have the most children and the most people in the workforce (by percentage).”

According to research from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Iowa has lost about 33 percent of its child care providers in the last five years. In rural areas this is as much as 50 percent lost.

“Iowa, like every state in the United States, has a child care crisis,” Herink said. “There’s a lack of affordable quality child care. There’s a lack of people in early childhood development professions. People who work in child care often make poverty wages, yet it’s too expensive for parents to afford.”

Quality child care programs have shown a correlation with positive results as children go through school and even later in life.

Herink said children who were in quality child care programs before kindergarten have decreased heart issues as adults, a lower occurrence of diabetes, drop out of school less and experience homelessness less often.

“We often say this is the best return on investment there is,” she said.

Greer noted Marshalltown is fortunate to have a number of child care options which he is impressed with.

“I’m thinking more of the church sponsored daycare facilities and the Bobcat Academy,” he said. “Our Bobcat Academy is, in my opinion, the best early child development or daycare facility I’ve ever heard of in Iowa. It really is something.”

Still, the mayor said more is needed in town.

“Especially as it relates to language,” Greer said. “Because of our diverse population. We have people moving into Marshalltown with children that will benefit from something in the educational arena before kindergarten starts. It’s important for English speaking households as well really.”

On March 10, Gov. Kim Reynolds launched a Child Care Task Force with the purpose of addressing Iowa’s child care shortage and the challenges it creates for Iowa’s workforce.

“When we remove the obstacles to high-quality, affordable child care, our families can nurture their kids while maintaining maximum freedom to enter and remain in the workforce,” Reynolds said. “Today’s announcement will further our efforts to provide high-quality, affordable access to child care in every corner of the state.”

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Contact Joe Fisher at jfisher@timesrepublican.com.

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