Leaders in childcare are tackling a huge issue in Northern Michigan. Nearly 100 people from throughout the Grand Traverse region are working hard to come up with solutions to address the need for adequate and affordable childcare options.
Groups like the United Way, the Great Start Collaborative, and Northwest Education Services are among the teams working on finding answers. They met in Traverse City on Thursday for a brainstorming session.
Great Start Collaborative Coordinator Mary Manner says their first step is to focus on building the workforce. “We have seven action teams that are working together to discuss the different components of the workforce; what folks need, how they get credentialed, how to get into childcare, how we sustain childcare.”
Yvonne Donohoe is the Director of Early Childhood Services with Northwest Education Services. She says, “The work in the room today is really about developing specific action plans that help to support and stabilize our early childhood educator workforce.”
In some cases the solutions may include increased salaries, educational assistance, or other benefits for employees and providers. Manner says federal ARPA funds and state investments are helping childcare providers. “The federal government, through the ARPA funds, and the state of Michigan, have really invested in helping childcare providers open, expand, and encouraging people who want to get into childcare and early childhood education, find the resources to help them get started.”
And Manner says those with a passion for childcare have seen improvement in the past year. “There’s so much more public awareness now than there was before the pandemic, of the role of childcare in our economy. It’s an essential role. We need quality childcare so people can go to work. And without it we’ve seen what happens.”
Donohoe adds, “We think we’re right at the cusp where the funding and the community involvement has made a tremendous difference in what’s happening in the field of early childhood and the childcare community. And we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
For more about Great Start resources, You can find the Great Start Collaborative by .