New Kentucky Child Care Network to Recruit and Train Providers
The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the existing shortage of regulated child care in Kentucky and across America.
Child care centers were shut down for a while and some employees and in-home providers haven’t returned to this traditionally low-paid segment of the economy.
The lack of child care prevents many workers from going back to their jobs and that impacts hospitals, schools and businesses across the state.
This month the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services awarded a $2.2 million dollar contract to Western Kentucky University to create and host a network to recruit, train and support child care providers, with an emphasis on in-home settings.
WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with WKU Infant and Toddler Specialist, Amy Hood, director of the new Family Child Care Network of Kentucky.
Hood: You know, child care is essential. We've heard a lot over the past 16 months about essential jobs and child care, early childhood educational settings, are essential settings. Most people when they think of child care, they think of the larger settings, you know, where a lot of children are kept. But in reality, many of our counties in Kentucky, you know, are rural counties where we don't have a whole lot of large settings. Many of our counties across the state are actually considered "child care deserts," which means that there's not enough child care for the number of children in that in that county. We have several of those here in the western part of our state, as well.
Miller: Is there a region that we can name or identify around here, that are child care deserts?
Hood: Child care deserts, yes, except for Warren and Barren counties, most of the counties in our Barren River area are considered child care deserts.
Miller: Now people, especially, you know, health care workers, teachers, people can't go back to work. That's one of the things I keep hearing, you know, because of COVID. And because of lack of child care, people are having difficulty getting back to work.
Hood: Right, they don't have a place to take their child that they feel is safe. So, it does impact the workforce. And one of the things about the family child care is, especially coming out of this pandemic, is that our family child care settings are smaller settings. So, there would be in a certified family child care home, there would be up to six children in care. We also have licensed homes, their maximum group size is 12. So, we're really looking at lower numbers, which with the COVID pandemic, we saw, you know, any program that had lesser than 10 was considered a safer group. So really, at this point in time, family child care is something that a lot of people seek because of that smaller group size.
Miller: Is there a shortage of any particular age group, like is it more for infants and toddlers or preschool?
Hood: Infant and toddler care has nationally for years been what we have a shortage of. We do have a real lack of infant and toddler care in our state.
Miller: I guess the last question would be, is there any particular reason WKU was chosen to start this network?
Hood: Well, we have a longstanding history with working with training and doing the technical assistance all across the state. We have staff that have been involved at the Early Childhood Advisory Council, Child Care Advisory Council. We've always been at the table in Kentucky to look to what's best for children and families and in our communities.
Miller: Thank you so much, Dr. Hood.
Hood: Thank you. Have a great day.
Miller: I've been talking with Amy Hood, director of the new Family Child Care Network of Kentucky. I'm Rhonda Miller in Bowling Green.