There is a nationwide need for child care, and Marion County proves to be the same. According to data gathered by ChildCare Aware, out of 11,865 residents in Marion County, there are 658 under the age of 6, and 507 of those children have both parents in the work force.
The Marion County Child Care Needs Assessment was conducted by the Hillsboro Community Child Care Center Board and K-State Research and Extension. There were 105 individuals who responded to the survey during the month of July in 2021. The majority of respondents reported they lived in the following zip codes: 67063 or 66861.
Finding infant care and having reliable child care were the most challenging needs identified. Child care centers were slightly preferred over providing care within the home, utilizing a combination of care as needed, or attending a school based program.
So H4C, Hillsboro Community Child Care Center, Inc., is doing all they can to change that.
The non-profit group was developed out of the need for better child care options for families in Marion County. Their vision is to establish an early learning center that provides children and families developmentally appropriate learning experiences needed for their future. And their mission is to provide a safe, affordable and welcoming early learning environment that fosters children to develop socially, physically, emotionally and cognitively to build the best foundation for future leaders.
The group has been working hard and has already gotten quite a bit accomplished, from establishing a board of directors to attending trainings, getting established as a 501 (c) (3) and more. They have even secured a building for the center, as they will be using Trinity Mennonite Church in Hillsboro.
“The facility is large and well set up, so we are already well ahead of where we could be,” said Carla Harmon, treasurer.
While there will be some costs needed for architectural and engineering fees as well as building appliances, inventory, classroom supplies and equipment, playground equipment and miscellaneous building expenses, having a building is key. And the church will still continue to house other community programs such as CORE, Everence, care portals, Salvation Army and other possibilities, including becoming a resource place for young families.
“We really do envision the space to not only be utilized as a child care center, but a community center with opportunities for office space with the basement of the building,” said Erin Hein, secretary.
In fact, the group cannot emphasize the community aspect enough.
“This child care center is for Marion County and not just for Hillsboro or USD 410. It’s for our whole community, and we need the whole community’s support. It’s truly a community thing. It has to be community supported and backed, and in turn, it goes back to benefit our businesses. It gives our parents the opportunity to have stable child care and get back into the work force and provide an income for their families. We need each other,” said Hein.
In addition to providing jobs, the center also is looking to network with local colleges to provide hands-on learning for those going into education so they can get observation and practicum hours. High schoolers will also possibly be able to do some school credit if they want to go into child care. The center could benefit many different aspect of the community.
With some of the costs cut by having a building, the group can focus on raising funds for the other needs like curriculum, staffing and more. They plan on fundraising and also applying for a grant that will help them really stretch their funds.
The grant is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the Kansas Department of Commerce. Grants are due in early 2023. They are reviewed and awarded in March. CDBG have to be awarded to units of government, so the City of Hillsboro would be a passthrough for the grant to the child care center.
“Since Hillsboro is under 5,000 population, the center would be eligible for up to $600,000 in funding. The minimum match is 25 percent, or $150,000, but grant applications score higher with more match. The board’s target is a 50/50 match of $600,000. That would give the center $1.2 million to complete a significant portion of remodeling and start serving kids,” said Hillsboro City Administrator Matt Stiles, who sits on the board. “This round of CDBG has a strong focus on child care centers, which is a little bit unusual. The state recognizes that child care is a significant problem across the state and is intentionally making investments in this area. Based on the amount of work already completed by our child care board, we would have a very competitive application for this round.”
Because H4C is now a 501 (c) (3) ,they can accept donations, and those donations are tax-deductible. Donations can be made through the Hillsboro Community Foundation. The board will be doing some fundraisers and other events and will be getting social media up and running very soon so that the public can stay informed on events.
One common misconception that has come up is that the center is trying to replace other existing centers and in-home providers, but Harmon and Hein said nothing could be further from the truth.
“Even if we were to fill the center to capacity, we would still need them,” said Harmon. “And every child is different, so some may be better in a center, and some may be better at a home daycare. We need all of them.”
Hein added that they want daycare providers to know that they are not in competition but need all of them to continue the hard work that they are doing.
“And we need one daycare provider still to sit on our board so we have their input,” said Hein.
The group is open to ideas and is looking for more business and community involvement. If you have questions or ideas, you can email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact a board member. H4C Board of Directors: Chair: Tristen Cope – Civic Sector; Treasurer: Carla Harmon – Education Sector; Secretary: Erin Hein – Public Health Sector; Max Heinrichs – Hillsboro Community Foundation; Anthony Roy – Parent Sector; Matt Stiles – Civic Sector; Jeremy Matlock – Religious Sector; Mark Rooker – Business Sector. Seat open for local child care provider.