Frequently Asked Questions
Why are we doing this?
Early childhood care and education are essential to help children and families thrive — and the early childhood infrastructure impacts all other support systems. We plan to build on the existing child care and education environment in Douglas County to better meet the needs of our community by bringing early childhood support and services together in one place. We will also work to increase coordination, so families have an easier and more rewarding experience creating comprehensive care and education plan to meet their child's unique needs.
Why an early childhood community center?
A recent statewide needs assessment confirmed that families with young children are struggling to:
meet their basic needs
find high-quality child care they can afford when they need it
successfully navigate to connect with services that could help
The ECCC seeks to address these challenges by strengthening and coordinating services to help build a more robust early childhood support system in Douglas County.
Is there a need for more early childhood care and education services in Douglas County?
Yes. While there are child care and education programs ably serving children in Douglas County, there are not enough to meet demand. Currently, licensed facilities meet just 47 percent of the potential need. For every infant or toddler spot in a licensed facility, there are ten children to fill that spot. Douglas County has lost nine licensed child care facilities since 2020, 6 of those within the last year. With fewer licensed slots, families are struggling to meet childcare needs. Difficulties range from unintentional competition among families for spaces, a child care plan that is pieced together and lacks consistency, or families using unlicensed child care, which can be unsafe. We are trying to scale up to meet demands, and to do so affordably requires a community investment in our workforce and families with young children.
Why the focus on infants and toddlers at the early childhood community center?
Low child-to-teacher ratios make providing affordable, high-quality infant-toddler child care a struggle. As a community, we must minimize the financial consequences of serving infants and toddlers, leading to more providers and services.
Who will have access to these services and programs?
We are working to ensure equitable access to high-quality early childhood care and education for every Douglas County child from birth to age five. The achievement gap between different income levels and ethnicities is seen in national studies before kindergarten. We want to ensure that every family with young children has access to high-quality services they can afford, with specific strategies in place to support the most vulnerable and marginalized.
Why are child care and education important to the Douglas County economy?
Quality child care and education is a public good, fueling our county's economic engine by helping parents work while building the workforce of the future. It supports parents seeking additional education and training, contributing to higher earnings over an individual's lifetime. Parents are forced to reduce their work hours without affordable child care and education or opt-out of the workforce. Child care and education capacity should be essential to the community discussion about economic development and job growth.
As an employer, why is a strong early childhood infrastructure good for business?
A strong early childhood infrastructure is good for business! It helps meet the needs of both employers and employees. Douglas County businesses will be more successful in recruiting companies and employees with children to locate here because our early childhood infrastructure will meet their families needs.
Will the early childhood community center put other child care facilities out of business?
The ECCC is not in competition with other child care and education programs but supports them! We want to increase coordination across the entire Douglas County early childhood community to work better for everyone, including our center- and home-based providers.
Who will be paying for this?
In the fall of 2021, the early childhood community center project received its first significant financial commitment from the Kansas Children's Cabinet in the form of a Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Grant three-year pilot project award to Community Children's Center in the amount of $582,000. LMH Health and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce each provided $10,000 of the required $20,000 in matching funds for that grant opportunity. In July of 2022, Douglas County awarded $3,676,405 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to Community Children's Center to acquire a building to serve as the primary ECCC location and to begin renovations of that space. We will actively seek funds to complete renovations through grants, foundations and private donors. While there is currently unprecedented support for reimagining the early childhood infrastructure at all levels of government, we need the support of the business community and private donors to make this work. We believe early childhood systems should be a shared investment with benefits across Douglas County.
What can I do to help?
Your support makes all the difference. Here are steps you can take:
Educate others on this exciting project in Douglas County.
Share input through both formal and informal opportunities.
Advocate for early childhood at all levels of government.
Implement family-friendly workplace practices at your place of business.
Volunteer your time and talents.
Donate to the ECCC fund at the Douglas County Community Foundation or visit Community Children's Center for more options (https://www.communitychildrenks.org/donate)
Contact Kim Polson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to get involved.
Why early childhood birth to five?
The first five years are the most critical period for brain development. Quality early care and education profoundly impact children's lifelong well-being, education, and income. Research shows that high-quality care and education offered from birth to five years old can set children on a path to higher school achievement, particularly those from low-income families. In addition, it results in higher rates of college completion, increased earnings, better employment options, and better health, with a high return on investment over time. If we can reach families when their children are young, they will have established the support network they need as their children grow. An investment in early childhood is an investment in the future!