Community leaders discuss childcare needs

A strategic planning process has been underway to discuss the future landscape of childcare in Osceola County.

A study was commissioned with First Children’s Finance by the Osceola Regional Health Center, owner of the childcare center Bright Beginnings. The cost was also shared with City of Sibley, Osceola County and the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District. Bright Beginnings also received Community Foundation of Osceola County grant to help with the costs.

The first step in the strategic planning process was a survey sent to parents and employers. That process was delayed due to the pandemic, and results were compiled in early 2021. A steering committee began meeting with First Children’s Finance to review the results and work on a range of solutions to help address current and future childcare needs county-wide.

Notable key findings of the survey included:

  • From 2000 to 2019, the number of children ages 0 to 12 in the county fell from 1,244 to 1,039 (-205). During this time, the number of children in this age group increased in Ashton, Melvin and Ocheyedan.
  • 62% of families that have children ages 0 to 5 and 76% of families that have children ages 6 to 17, have all parents in the labor force.
  • 61% of parents with kids 0-5 years of age prefer childcare in a DHS Licensed Center.
  • 72% of parents with children 0-5 years of age (not in kindergarten) and 65% with children 5-12 said they found it difficult or very difficult to find childcare. Obstacles were almost exclusively related to lack of openings or not enough spaces.
  • Parents indicated childcare is affecting their employment. 47% have had to leave work early, 44% missed work due to a provider being closed or not available, and 27% arrived late to work.
  • Employers also indicated childcare was causing challenges: 50% said they had productivity challenges due to childcare, 31% said they had experienced absenteeism issues due to childcare.

With this key data, the group began discussing how to work strategically to determine best steps and a range of solutions that meet the community’s needs and resources. The group is examining the needs for children, parents and employers, and is carefully analyzing each group impacted to determine the detailed steps needed to address concerns and challenges.

“It is especially important that we have community support as we work through options for the future of childcare,” said

Ben Davis, CEO of the Osceola Regional Health Center.

The strategic planning is being led by Angie Duncan, Senior Business Development Specialist with First Children’s Finance (FCF). The mission of FCF is to help communities increase the availability, affordability and quality of early care and education.

The child care steering committee includes Davis and Craig Carstens, CFO, from the Osceola Regional Health Center; Jamie Craig, Superintendent from the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District; Stephanie Neppl, Executive Director of the Osceola County Economic Development Commission, Ashley Ackerman, Executive Director of the Sibley Chamber of Commerce and City of Sibley Staff; and Mitchell Ackerman, Sibley City Council.

“Working through our childcare challenges requires partnerships and community support,” Neppl said. “Having childcare availability is key to attracting more workers to fill our current and future employer needs. We look forward to rolling out some possible solutions and working together to achieve improvements in Osceola County’s childcare sector.”

The strategic planning group looks forward to sharing more info and next steps as soon as possible.

For more information:
Stephanie Neppl, Executive Director
Osceola County Economic Development Commission