North Central to research child care in Emmet County

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PETOSKEY – In an effort to meet the needs of parents and children in Emmet County, North Central Michigan College announced that it has partnered with the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation to create the NCMC Child Care Initiative .

The initiative is a year-long research project aimed at finding solutions to the child care shortage. The community foundation provided a $50,000 grant for the first phase of the initiative, which is research-focused, as well as additional funding from the Frey Foundation.

The college also received an Early Childhood Investment Corporation grant of $87,500 to support the initiative.

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“Having child care available is essential for the families who live and work here in Emmet County,” David Jones, executive director of the community foundation, said in a news release.

“We are proud to support North Central’s efforts to research and identify child care solutions for our community that will have an impact now and in the future.

According to data collected in March 2021 by Think Babies Michigan, the average cost of infant care per month in Emmet County is $567. For toddlers, the average monthly cost is $539. That is if parents are able to find care at all.

Some state subsidies exist, but only a small percentage of children are allowed to receive care.

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According to data collected in March 2021 by Think Babies Michigan, the average cost of infant care per month in Emmet County is $567.  For toddlers, the average monthly cost is $539.

“(The community foundation) really provides us with the opportunity to research and assess needs so that we can be ready to establish the necessary partnerships with local employers, local governments,” said Jennifer Wixson, program coordinator of early childhood education and head teacher. member of the NCMC.

“If we’re going to find a particular childcare system, it’s going to be sustainable and viable, it’s really a collective good and so we need to have collective problem solving.”

In addition to Wixson, the team includes Susan Chowan, quality improvement consultant at the Great Start to Quality Northwest Resource Center, and Karen Kling, senior strategic project manager at Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. They will evaluate more than a dozen possible designs in a process that will take 12 to 18 months, according to Wixson. During this time, they will also conduct surveys. Focus groups and interviews with parents, employers and providers to understand each other’s needs.

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The issues they aim to address include affordability and accessibility of care, the ability of local providers to offer quality and affordable care, employment opportunities and higher wages for child care workers. children and the quality of care for children.

Once the research phase is complete, the team will present the list of viable solutions to Emmet County leaders.

Wixson said she hopes to find a solution that will provide affordable, quality child care, supported by community partnerships, and that will benefit parents, children, employers and providers.

“I think we’re hopeful that we (will) have affordable child care supported by lasting partnerships within the community, specifically: affordable, high-quality child care,” Wixson said. .

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Contact reporter Tess Ware at tware@petoskeynews.com. Follow her on Twitter, @Tess_Petoskey

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