According to Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee’s (ELAC) 2020 Annual Report, Morgan County is home to 4,791 children ages birth to five. The majority of these young children (69%) are in need of care because all parents are working. Yet, only 517 children are enrolled in a known early learning program.
Of those children who are enrolled in these 25 known programs, only 8% of the children are enrolled in high-quality programs, or a Level 3 or 4 in Indiana’s Paths to QUALITY™ (PTQ) rating system. Since the majority of Morgan County consists of working families who are dependent on reliable childcare, it is critical that Morgan County not only increases access to early learning seats, but also the number of high-quality options.
Ensuring that children have the tools they need to succeed in school and life is critical for any community to thrive. Children who receive quality early learning experiences are more likely to graduate from high school and earn as much as 60% more over a lifetime than those who do not. Families that have access to affordable early learning programs are able to advance their careers and improve their financial futures. Communities that invest in quality early learning gain economic prosperity as families and children prosper.
For these reasons, the Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC) is pleased to partner with the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County (CFBMC) for the South Central Region (SCR) Ready Early Learning Initiative funded by the IU Health Community Impact Investment (CII) Fund and Early Learning Indiana (ELI).
As part of the Ready Early Learning Initiative, the CFMC met with stakeholders from 32 organizations across five sessions to identify child care-related gaps and opportunities through a Design Thinking Process. Transform Consulting Group (TCG) assisted Morgan County in prioritizing goals and strategies to create a three-year early learning strategic plan with a focus on the following: Capacity, Access & Quality, Workforce, Funding, and Communication & Awareness. An $84,000 Implementation Grant was awarded to CFMC to support strategies identified in Morgan County’s Early Learning Strategic Plan.
Implementation dollars will support additional consultation to engage local employers, a part-time early learning coordinator position, and capacity-building funding that helped to create 72 new seats for Morgan County children and their families at Growing Garden Learning Center, LLC.
Jennifer Palmer, Owner (GGLC), is a participant in the Monroe Smart Start (an early childhood leadership initiative of the CFBMC) SCR Quality Cohort, focused on quality advancement in PTQ. When GGLC became a Quality Cohort participant, the childcare center was not yet enrolled in PTQ. In less than eight months, GGLC advanced two PTQ levels and continues to grow qualified early care staff in order to serve additional children and their families.
Palmer states, “The SCR Ready Early Learning Initiative has been beyond helpful with opening our center and getting it to a high-quality, educational experience for children in our community!”
Monroe Smart Start Director, Jennifer Myers adds, “We are incredibly grateful to IU Health’s CII Funds and ELI for their investment in IU Health’s SCR. The Ready Early Learning Initiative has engaged 150 stakeholders across five counties growing access to high-quality childcare for families that live and work in our SCR. Morgan County has a strong strategic plan. I’m looking forward to our continued partnership and seeing the wonderful outcomes on behalf of children.”