Responding to the needs of essential workers who are desperate for safe places for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the hundreds of licensed child care professionals struggling to keep their businesses open, a group of early childhood stakeholders, including First Five Nebraska, has created the Nebraska Child Care Referral Network. The searchable database at www.NEchildcarereferral.org connects parents with licensed child care providers in their area who have openings.
“We have heard from essential workers who are having a hard time finding providers to care for their children,” said Betty Medinger, senior vice president at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. She said that often results in parents leaving their jobs, or resorting to inconsistent child care arrangements or other emergency short-term solutions.
Parents can search across the network by distance from their home, ZIP code, providers who accept subsidy, those who participate in Step Up to Quality or by keyword. Providers listed in the network include both family child care homes and center-based care for children from birth through age 12. Providers are encouraged to update their information as they fill openings or have slots open up, to keep the database as current as possible.
Parents who would like more information about how to choose a provider can call Nebraska Child Care Resource and Referral Line at 1-800-892-4453 or 402-557-6880. Licensed providers who are not currently represented on the site but would like to be, can call their regional Early Learning Connection Coordinators through the Nebraska Department of Education.
First child care referral website in Nebraska
This is the first child care resource and referral website of this kind in Nebraska. Although the push to create it came out of the COVID-19 crisis, the website is a first step in creating a robust database to serve the needs of parents and providers long after this emergency has passed.
“Through this effort, we’ve collected data on the number of available child care spots by age group,” said Ben Baumfalk, FFN’s Policy Research Analyst. “We’ve not collected this data before and it serves both the immediate need to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, but also will be a valuable resource to assist families in finding child care in the future.”
In addition to the Nebraska Child Care Referral Network website, the early childhood partners created a resource web page for Nebraska’s child care providers with information on everything from small business loans to mental health support.
The network was a collaboration between First Five Nebraska and public and private partners, including the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Department of Education, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Nebraska Extension, Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative, Buffett Early Childhood Institute and numerous other state and local partners. Dedicated resources to support the site are provided by Early Learning Connections Coordinators based across the state.