Elkhart County lacks quality day care centers, organizations plan alternatives
Parents in Elkhart County are struggling to find affordable and good quality day care centers for their children.
According to the Indiana Youth Institute, in 2016 there were only 13 licensed facilities.
“We are wait-listed at any given time at least 15 to 20 children on it. The highest point last year we had 5,” said Erin Syslo, the Executive Director of Walnut Hill Early Childhood Center.
Syslo adds new facilities are needed to keep up with growing demand and to help parents who have financial restrictions.
Bill Rieth, President of United Way of Elkhart County is trying to get his non-profit approved for the state’s Pre-K Pilot program. “In the county we have approximately 1200 kids that are in low income families. Every parent wants their kids to go to a good facility but it’s hard to afford,” he said.
Indiana rates day care centers on different levels from one through four.
Level one is just like babysitting and level four centers ensure parents safety and education are priority.
Rieth says sometimes parents opt for the lower rated centers. “Because of their economic situation, they’re pretty much living pay check to pay check. So even though you want a quality place you can’t afford that.”
Parents agree “They have to go through home day cares or shuffle the kids between family. It’s toxic on the family and it’s toxic on the child.” said Nicole Lehman, a day care parent.
The pilot program would allow 150 more children from low to moderate income households to go to high level day cares.
Rieth says he just wants quality education for the young ones, but understands sometimes there’s a burden. “To have a quality place to take your children, all parents want that but that’s expensive.”
United way along with eight other organizations applied for that Pre-K Pilot Program. They will find out in April if they were accepted and will be ready to go July 1st.
Families who are accepted into the program will be able to bring their children for free.
Rieth added that with those funds they will even work toward advancing present level one and two facilities.