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Child care and early education is in crisis


To the editor:

Child care and early education in Missouri is in crisis, threatening the future of our children and the prosperity of our community. It is a challenge which demands immediate attention, comprehensive solutions, and the unwavering commitment of our community. We recognize that investing in early care and education as a community is a necessary investment that will pay dividends for generations to come.

Ozark Action, Inc., is partnering with Kids Win Missouri and local leaders to develop a community action plan for improving access to quality child care and early education in West Plains. Research consistently shows that children who receive high-quality early education are more likely to succeed in school and become productive members of their communities. Investing in early care and education supports the current and future workforce, reduces poverty, and enhances the overall quality of life in our community and state.

In September, leaders representing local businesses, child care providers, parents, and the school district met to start the process of developing a child care and early education action plan for the community. Over the next four months, Kids Win Missouri, IFF, and Ozark Action, Inc., will work with the team to compile a three-part data survey within the community:

• Landscape Analysis: Quantitative and qualitative research on the local economic, family, and child care and early education characteristics of West Plains.

• Fiscal mapping: Identify public and private resources that currently support or could support child care and early education in West Plains.

• Cost modeling: Quantify the true cost of care associated with improving families’ access to high quality child care &\and early education and identify funding gaps.

In January 2024, the community team will begin to use the data collected to develop goals for improving access and affordability to quality child care and early education. A community child care and early education action plan will be created to guide our community in reaching these goals. In June 2024, we will present a comprehensive plan which incorporates how our local families, businesses, and the community can best use our resources along with federal and state investments to address the child care and early education crisis in West Plains.

Child care and early education are not just lifelines for parents; they are the building blocks for a strong workforce and a thriving, educated society. The consequences of the crisis are far-reaching and affect us all; the solution requires that we come together as a community and invest in our present and future. We have the opportunity to turn the child care crisis into a catalyst for a stronger community and brighter future for all.

Angie Kinder, Head Start Director,
Ozark Action, Inc.,
West Plains