One key aspect in improving the quality of life for Morgan County residents is addressing our birth – five years of age childcare ecosystem. The first five years of a child’s life are critical for building the foundational skills essential for success in education, health, career, and life. When children do not have healthy early learning experiences and environments, they can develop deficits in skills and abilities that lead to negative outcomes, such as increased educational costs, juvenile delinquency, crime, and poor health.
If a child spends their early years growing and developing in a supportive environment, then they will be able to experience their childhood as they are meant to – with strong caregiver connections and without toxic stress. In addition, they are more likely to thrive in every stage of development thru adulthood, eventually earning a self-sufficient living. In addition, the parents of young children can be productive members of the workforce and their community.
Specific to Morgan County, there are 23 known early care and education programs that are licensed or registered with the state of Indiana. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Morgan County lost 13 programs. With approximately 3,300 children under 6 in need of care, only an average of 500 spots available in care programs, this means approximately 85% of our county’s children are being served informally by a neighbor, relative, or friend where the care and education being provided is unknown. We know that 69% of Morgan County’s young children need care because all parents are working.
In Morgan County, almost two thirds of children live in an area with low childcare capacity (56%) or live in a childcare desert, which means care is not provided (5%). 31% live in a moderate capacity area, which are suburbs of Mooresville or Martinsville, and the remaining children live in a childcare hub (8%), which is specifically within Mooresville or Martinsville.
What else have we discovered in looking at the current childcare ecosystem in Morgan County? In 2018, Early Learning Indiana worked with researchers from IU to complete a cost study of the impact of inadequate childcare on Indiana’s economies. The report found that childcare related absences and turnover cost Indiana employers $1.8 billion annually. In addition to employers being impacted, the local economy is also affected. It is estimated that Indiana loses nearly $1.1 billion every year due to lack of childcare, employee absenteeism and turnover related to childcare challenges.
ELev8 involves Morgan County schools’ leaders, CFMC, childcare centers, ministries, and wrap around non-profits who serve our youth. This initiative is a part of a larger initiative in other counties too, including Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, and Orange counties and is led by The Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, Regional Opportunities Initiatives, Inc., Transform Consulting Group with grant funding from IU Health and Early Learning Indiana. ELev8 began in May with beginning stages of brainstorming from stakeholders serving early learning children, surveyed community stakeholders and employers, and has just finished its strategic planning stage where grant dollars are now being applied to a budget where the project will soon reach implementation. The end goal is to create a sustainable initiative to provide more early learning childcare within Morgan County, to help centers and ministries reach licensure and for these early learning centers to reach higher stages of quality ratings through Indiana’s Paths to Quality rating and improvement system.
Questions or would like to be involved?
Call our Community Development Officer, Jessica Schwarz at our office. 765-813-0003.