Jan. 14, 2022
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
The complete article appears in the Jan. 13, 2022 print edition of The Brillion News.
CHILTON – Calumet County is collaborating with Child Care Resource and Referral to try to provide relief for child care providers and workers in the county.
The Calumet County Board of Supervisors recently approved ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding for an Early Childhood Stabilization Program designed to help child care providers retain staff through training and bonuses.
The county's collaboration with Child Care Resource and Referral, a group based in Kimberly, has a project cost of $689,783 and will include the following initiatives:
• Entry-level training opportunities and reimbursement of necessary hiring expenses
• Child care discounts for children of staff
• Sign-on bonus program for staff
• Quality support specialists to assist each child care facility.
The county says there is a need to increase child care capacity, but staff shortages make that difficult. Lack of child care has a trickle down effect to employers.
“Calumet County as a large employer had been and continues to lose employees due to lack of available child care. It's just practical reality. If you commute into the community for a job, you may need to end up placing your children in child care at home and then your children may end up being up at that child care center for long hours or the child care center's hours don't jive with your own work schedule,” Calumet County Community Economic Development Director Mary Kohrell said.
Kohrell has been hearing from employers who have struggled to hire and retain employees throughout the county because their workers need child care. The child care providers also struggle to retain staff. The pandemic exacerbated the staffing problem for providers.
“We have child care providers in the county that are not able to use their entire space, so there's more demand for service than they can offer because they don't have enough classroom teachers,” Kohrell said.
Prior to the pandemic, there was less of a spotlight on child care, Kohrell said.
“This has been a silent problem for a lot of years,” Kohrell said. “(Child care providers) tended to deal with his problem quietly or maybe within their child care provider networks … They sort of tried to deal with this problem on their own but it was really shown as we went through the pandemic, and we're kind of coming out the other end now, where employers started really putting two and two together in various obvious ways to say: if my employees don't have a place to bring their children, then I really have a much bigger problem hiring people.”
The four initiatives in the funding was from direct feedback from providers.