A place for kids

Building Families offers incentives for new in-home childcare

-Submitted photo
Emily Christensen, right, plays puzzles with Austyn and Zaharah at her Home Childcare business in Eagle Grove. With a major shortage in childcare options in Hamilton County and the surrounding region, Building Families is now offering new incentives to encourage more childcare businesses.

The need for more childcare providers is so great, one group of agencies now offers cash bonuses for anyone who starts up an in-home childcare service.

McKinley Bailey, executive director of Building Families, wants people to realize they can actually make good money watching kids at home.

“A lot of people think of in-home childcare as babysitting,” Bailey said. “They don’t realize you can make a career out of it. If you get registered, most folks can have eight kids in their home. Eight kids at the going rate per child, if you have them full-time, puts you over $50,000 a year in income. That’s not babysitting money.”

With Prestage Foods of Iowa scheduled to open soon and a planned influx of families, an already troubling childcare shortage is about to get worse, Bailey said, which is why Building Families has partnered with the Iowa Department of Human Services, and several county boards of supervisors to address the need.

Building Families is an agency based in Clarion that works to support activities in Hamilton, Humboldt and Wright counties that advance the well-being of children ages 5 and younger.

Prestage plans to create 700 new jobs as it opens in March, with a goal of employing 1,000 as the plant gets going.

“Right now we have a childcare shortage, but once all these apartments out there are built, and we have all these folks move to town, they’re going to need childcare that doesn’t exist right now,” Bailey said.

According to the latest numbers from Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral, Hamilton County has a shortage of 739 registered childcare slots, Bailey said–before Prestage hired a single worker.

“We have tried hard over the past year or so to get a center to expand, or start a new center, and the capital costs are just incredibly imposing,” he said. “A new center could cost $4 million if you have to build the whole thing, including the kitchen and the rec room.

“So we decided a few months ago to focus on in-home childcare as a way to meet the childcare shortage.”

Childcare providers can now get $500 from Building Families for starting up a new business – or for being an existing one that gets its certification for the first time – to recoup start up costs, Bailey said.

Providers will also get semi-annual wage stipends.

“If you have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license, or a master’s degree, that stipend is $1,875 every six months,” Bailey said. “We’ll just write that check to you.”

The stipend starts out at $250 every six months, and grows with education, he said.

“If you don’t have any college, we’ll pay for 90% of your college tuition if you want to study early childhood education.”

One of the other organizations, Child Care Resource and Referral, will offer free one-on-one consulting to help people through every step of getting started.

And the training needed isn’t too onerous, according to Bailey.

“Most of the required training can be completed in about a week,” he said. This includes a background check, 12 hours of online training, and an in-person first aid training that takes about one morning or afternoon.

And it can help parents spend more time with their own children, if that’s what they want.

Bailey remembered one successful in-home daycare run by a grandma, who wanted to be around her grandson growing up. She ran the business for five or six years, then stopped when he got older.

“A mom who is working full-time, she’s got two kids under five, and one school age kid, so she’s got three kids in daycare. By the time you pay your bill, half your paycheck is gone,” Bailey said. “This is an opportunity for a parent in a situation like that to raise their own kids, stop writing all these checks to daycare, and let people write them to you.

“This is a way to afford being a stay at home parent, which I think a lot of people would like to do, but they have bills to pay.”

The childcare shortage is a problem all across Iowa, Bailey said, but in Hamilton and surrounding counties the influx of new families is going to make it worse.

“If you have an infant or a one year old, there is a waiting list at either center” in Webster City, he said. “People know, the first call you make after you call your parents to tell them you’re having a baby is to the childcare center so you can get put on the list.

“Not long ago in Clarion, we had 18 infants on the waiting list, and only eight spots. It’s not as bad as it was, but you can imagine if you’re a parent at that moment in time, trying to find a place for their kid. The shortage is real, it’s real right now, and it’s going to become acute as people move into the area.”