An influx of nearly $2 million in grant funds may soon help shift Seward County from its status as a childcare desert to a childcare oasis.
The funds are earmarked to help create at least 176 new licensed childcare spots, putting a large dent in the 189-spot gap Seward County has between the number of children needing care and the number of spots available.
Of the new spots, 22 have already been established, while the rest will come with three new childcare centers that are set to open around the end of 2023.
In July 2022, Dr. Melissa Trueblood, an Economist with NPPD’s Economic Development Team, conducted a study on the Economic Impacts of Inadequate Child Care Access in Seward County, Nebraska. In this study, she sought to find a way to make that statewide data more relatable to individual communities, and when she broke it down the economic impact of inadequate childcare came back just as harsh, if not more so, when compared to the statewide data. Estimated, potential annual impacts of inadequate childcare in Seward County, Nebraska included almost $2.7 million of lost household income and over $1.6 million of added costs to Seward County area businesses.
Most recently in conversation with Jonathan Jank, President & CEO of Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership, Jank commented that he has only has good news to report as a result. He said there will be three new Childcare Centers and one new preschool opening in Seward County by the end of 2023 – Our Redeemer Littler Learners – Staplehurst, NE; Little Cubs Daycare – Seward, NE; Milford Childhood Learning Center – Milford, NE; Today Counts Preschool – Seward, NE.
He gives the credit to the Childcare Study that NPPD and Melissa Trueblood provided to the community the many grants (approximately $1,982,781.43) they were awarded. They used this childcare study at meetings, and in talking with childcare providers. Some of the discussions were conversations at both Kiwanis and Rotary Club meetings, at a professional development luncheon focusing on childcare, interviews with the local newspaper, at Milford and Seward City Council and Planning Commission meetings, and with our local childcare provider group through Communities for Kids [communitiesforkids.org] initiative (program of the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation).
“We identified the need, then things came together very quicky. All those resources aligned in a really great way” said Jonathan Jank.
Jank said the three new childcare centers came about from people in the community who wanted to address the need for quality care. “We have three new childcare centers coming to our county, which I think is exactly what the state was looking for when they were disseminating these dollars. “We’re fortunate in our county that we have three that we did not solicit, but they have become available. In our role on the economic side, we welcome new business opportunities.”
“We will continue to support our existing providers, and we also want to welcome new opportunities for business growth.”
Jank hopes the new centers will be large enough to accommodate several children on a drop-in basis, which would allow in-home providers to take time away for medical appointments, trainings or vacation, and it could support other care centers when needed.
“We’re hoping building capacity benefits everyone,” he said. Our gap number was approximately 189. Through these projects, we’re really hoping that these childcare centers can help fill the need.”
Inadequate childcare can create a multi-million-dollar impact in local economies, and these numbers are a great example of how the childcare shortage in Nebraska is a problem for more than just those who need someone to watch their kids so they can go to work. Hopefully, economic developers and other local advocates for this cause can utilize this information to help build partnerships to help find creative ways to attack this pressing need in the state.
Credit Sources: Seward County Independent