Survey gauges need for public child care center
As more people are vaccinated to reduce the risk from COVID-19, many parents in the Mid-Columbia region are returning to the workforce. But the high cost and scarcity of affordable child care is a challenge, both for the general public and students attending Columbia Gorge Community College.
“Columbia Gorge Community College has long recognized the need for affordable child care,” said Nancey Patten, director of Child Care Partners – Child Care Resource & Referral. This college-based program offers training and technical assistance to early learning professionals and referral services for CGCC students. It recruits and supports new early learning programs to meet the needs of local families.
The college also has an Early Childhood Education program to help meet the acute shortage of skilled early childhood educators.
This past spring the Ford Family Foundation awarded Columbia Gorge Community College a grant to conduct a child care center feasibility study. The study is taking place over the summer and fall. It will gather information on the regional need for affordable child care and develop a business model to determine how a child care center can be operated on a sustainable basis.
This month the college and its community partners are distributing a survey as the critical first step in completing that study. The survey is anonymous. Participants are asked to report the number of children in their families, how their child care needs are currently met, and their ability to contribute toward the cost of child care. “We know our region needs a child care center,” Patten said. “Data from this survey will be vital in order for us to determine the feasibility of operating a facility, including the level of support we will likely need to keep our rates affordable for low and moderate-income families.”
A child care center will have two goals: First, to provide affordable child care for families who are unable to place children in centers operated by Head Start (typically because family incomes do not meet federal eligibility requirements). And second, to provide real-world instructional experience for students enrolled in the college’s Early Childhood Education program.
Ten community partners joined with the college in supporting the local cost of this study, including Four Rivers Early Learning Hub, City of The Dalles, Wasco County, Northern Wasco People’s Utility District, Mid-Columbia Medical Center, The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce, North Wasco County School District, Columbia Gorge Education Service District, Mid-Columbia Economic Development District and Port of The Dalles.
The survey is posted to the college website and social media. Community partners are distributing it through their social media networks. People are encouraged to complete the survey no later than Friday, August 20. Paper versions of the survey are also being distributed to libraries, schools and other locations.