by Elizabeth Lopez Everett, First Five Nebraska Senior Policy Associate
In Nebraska, roughly 84% of counties don’t have enough child care slots to meet current demand. Instead, parents struggle to find consistent, safe and enriching learning environments for their children. Communities across the state understand that a quality early childhood infrastructure is needed to attract young families and help working parents.
To improve upon or build their early childhood infrastructure, several communities have applied to be part of the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation's (NCFF) Communities for Kids (C4K) program. As part of this program, C4K and First Five Nebraska staff provide technical, development and policy support so each community can craft solutions that meet their early childhood needs. This summer and fall, I traveled to many of these communities and learned from parents, early childhood educators, employers and community leaders about both their struggles and successes.
In October, I traveled to McCook and Henderson, two C4K towns that have just completed a communitywide survey to understand their current early childhood infrastructure and gaps. I greatly enjoyed presenting to the McCook and Henderson Chambers of Commerce, going to the very popular Sehnert’s bakery for a community discussion and hearing the challenges, but more importantly, the efforts by community leaders to help working parents find quality child care.
As a transplant to Nebraska, I’m always amazed by the tenacity and can-do attitude that exists here. Nebraskans are a hardworking people and always want to give back to their community. It’s not surprising to me that we’re currently ranked fifth in the country for the percentage of married spouses both working full-time jobs. However, I’m always surprised by the unlikely allies, the folks who might not have young children, but who know the importance of quality child care. In Henderson and McCook, there were many unlikely allies willing to step up and get involved to make their community a great place to live.
Nebraska is at a turning point. There are so many amazing communities stepping up to help working parents and children gain access to quality child care. As early childhood support continues to grow, First Five Nebraska will work tirelessly in the state Legislature to ensure public resources are available and early childhood educators and families have the support they need.