Apr 17, 2023

READI Funds Help Children, Families and Region Thrive

Childcare is an economic development issue in 21st Century America. That’s why several regional stakeholders are coming together with a solution to bridge the gap between working parents and access to high-quality care, backed by funding through the Indiana Regional Economic Development Initiative, or READI.



Matched by funds from the counties and cities, the funding will be used by the Lafayette-based Child Care Resource Network, a program of Early Steps, to expand licensed and high-quality childcare across the region. As part of the project, startup funds for new programs and mini-grants for expansion projects will be awarded to in-home daycare and childcare facilities. READI funds will program will target the counties  Benton, Fountain, Tippecanoe, Warren and White.”



According to the Child Care Resource Network Community Engagement Specialist Grant Britzke, his organization covers 27 counties in the region. Its purpose is to advocate for high-quality early learning for families. They also are concerned with recruiting and training child care providers while developing unique child care resources and referral programs for employers of working parents.

Early learning or early education are terms used to describe programs that provide education for children outside their own home before kindergarten. Research indicates these services help both the child and the parent thrive and it can even help reduce poverty.

However, while essential to family success, stable childcare can be challenging to secure and maintain for a host of reasons. According to data provided by the Child Care Resource Network, the need for quality child care in these counties exceeds the current demand by a huge margin. As many as 12,000 children from birth to aged 5 may need child care and the providers don’t always have openings or they may be a long drive away for parents.

“There are different community champions and different communities that are stepping forward, to meet employment needs, taking into account families' choices,” he said. “So, the READI grant is going to allow us to provide more resources to help create childcare infrastructure.” 

Specifically, that means building the capacity to add more than 400 spots at brand-new regulated sites. While helping families maintain employment, he said the effects are wider in that it will create better opportunities for the child care businesses that serve the families.

Britzke’s colleague and Program Director, Victoria Matney, explains that the element of choice is important in the program’s success. She said Indiana has what she calls a “mixed landscape.” That means there are several types of “auspices,” i.e., home-based facilities, ones run by churches and other entities. Parents and guardians know what’s best for their children and their family situation, and the program allows for that agency.

“Some parents prefer the home-based setting, while some people want the center setting,” she said. “So it’s allowing parents to have a choice. With that said, it does get complicated in that different auspices have different requirements for their staff or their environment. And so we’re trying to respect all of that, then trying to work with the different challenges.”

But leaders in early childhood development know that change can’t happen overnight. According to Britzke, by bolstering child care facilities over a three-year period, the goal is to give providers enough time to make operational changes that will allow them to serve more families.

Kristen Brock, grants administrator with Greater Lafayette Commerce, said regional economic leaders are encouraged by the plans.

“The GLC and the local economic development (community), see this as a priority,” she said. “It’s lending credibility, identifying child care as a workforce issue. And because local government and local community champions work with and around businesses to help businesses grow and sustain in the community, it's really bringing additional opportunities to have conversations (around childcare as an economic development driver.)”