Why Iowa’s workforce will be stronger with childcare solutions (2023)

Mary Craven of Friendship Village Retirement Community makes a Play-Doh pizza with Harper Bahr, 4, at It Takes a Village Childcare in Waterloo in May. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Lois Marsch of Friendship Village Retirement Community watches Huxley Blough, 4, build a tall castle at It Takes a Village Childcare in Waterloo. The residents of Friendship Village visit the child care center every Wednesday morning. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Jerry Jackson of Friendship Village Retirement Community plays with a group of toddlers at It Takes a Village Childcare in Waterloo. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Lois Marsch of Friendship Village Retirement Community smiles as Nathyn Abbas, 5, hugs her during playtime at It Takes a Village Childcare in Waterloo. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Dolores Jacoby of Friendship Village Retirement Community smiles as she tickles Carlie Demaro on the floor during playtime at It Takes a Village Childcare in Waterloo, Iowa on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. The retirement residents make connections with the kids during their weekly visits. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Dolores Jacoby of Friendship Village Retirement Community laughs as she dances with Carlie Demaro, 3, during their weekly visit at It Takes a Village Childcare in Waterloo, Iowa on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Residents from the retirement community act as “grandparents” and allow them to play and hang out with children at the child care center. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Lois Marsch, right, laughs as she watches her friend Dolores Jacoby wheel Carlie Demaro, 3, around the room on her walker during playtime at It Takes a Village Childcare in Waterloo, Iowa on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. The women act as honorary “grandparents” and play with the kids every week. The residents can often be seen playing on the floor or helping build a building out of blocks. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Among the reasons why Friendship Village, a senior living community in Waterloo, opened a child care center was to attract “the best of the best” employees and bring people back into the workforce.

“I wanted to have something that we could offer that would differentiate us from the rest, and that was child care,” said Lisa Gates, president and CEO of Friendship Village.

The senior living community opened a child care center — It Takes a Village Childcare — in July 2019. The goal was to provide 24/7 child care, as well as the ability for young children and senior residents — referred to as “grandparents” by the kids — to spend time together.


But when the pandemic began in March 2020, it “changed everything,” Gates said. There was a lack of staff, as well as navigating keeping the place open while keeping the children safe.

(Video) Iowa Child Care Task Force: What are the Problems, What are the Solutions?

Visits with the “grandparents” took a very long pause, Gates said, but have since resumed “with joyfulness.” The center is currently not open 24/7 due to staffing challenges but is working toward it.

Iowa was experiencing a child care crisis and workforce shortage before COVID-19, but the pandemic exacerbated these issues and further showed the importance of addressing these two challenges together, experts say.

“I think if the pandemic had any of a silver lining, it was that it helps show that this is the case, that this really is not just a family issue anymore,” said Dawn Oliver Wiand, president and chief executive officer of the Iowa Women’s Foundation.

Shortage before pandemic hit

There indeed was a child care crisis and workforce shortage in Iowa before the pandemic, but it went from “bad to worse really quickly” during the pandemic, said Jennifer Banta, Iowa City Area Business Partnership vice president.

“It’s become an onion,” Banta said. “It was a complicated issue to begin with and now it’s an even more complicated issue.”

Iowa was losing $935 million annually as a result of child care issues, according to a February 2020 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in partnership with Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

The Iowa Women’s Foundation estimates there is a shortfall of more than 350,000 child care slots, and another 78,013 slots could be lost due to the pandemic.

Women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic recession, according to a 2021 report by Iowa Workforce Development. Oliver Wiand said Iowa lost 54,000 women in the workforce.

Women nationwide lost nearly 11.9 million jobs between February 2020 and April 2020, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

A March 2022 report from the organization found women were still short more than 1.4 million net jobs in February 2022 compared to February 2020, and accounted for nearly 70 percent of the net job loss.

Women are leaving the workforce four times faster than men, Oliver Wiand said.

A lot of that, Oliver Wiand said, is because of child care.

“It’s going to take all of us coming together in different ways to address the child care issues, so more people can get back to work,“ Oliver Wiand said.

(Video) Iowa struggles with child care and workforce crises

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This article is from Iowa Ideas magazine, published by The Gazette.

Getting businesses involved

The Iowa Women’s Foundation has been helping businesses become more connected with addressing the child care crisis. Among its efforts, the group created a tool kit highlighting potential solutions businesses can implement and examples of businesses that have invested in child care for their employees.

Potential solutions include flexible work arrangements and flexible spending accounts, as well as subsidized, backup, on-site and off-site child care.

Once businesses invested in child care, Oliver Wiand said, “they’ve stuck with it because they see the benefit of it.”

Frontier Co-op in Norway has offered affordable child care options since 1976. Vermeer in Pella is approaching the 10-year anniversary of its child care center, the Yellow Iron Academy.

“Businesses are starting to get it,” Oliver Wiand said. “They start to recognize this is an issue for them, and it is impacting their employees and it’s impacting their bottom lines. They want to do something but they’re overwhelmed.”

Banta, of the Iowa City Area Business Partnership, echoed how businesses feel as if they are stretched thin as they deal with workforce and supply chain issues, among other challenges.

“Employers are really interested in solving this issue because they’ve all lost great employees to the child care issue, but they’re really struggling with how to get involved,” Banta said.

New position focused on employer engagement

In an effort to help businesses further, Oliver Wiand said the Iowa Women’s Foundation has entered into a contract with the Iowa Economic Development Authority to hire an employer engagement director.

Sheri Penney, the former economic development director in Mitchell County, was hired to fill the full-time role.

The employer engagement director will provide coaching and technical assistance to businesses around the state that want to make an investment in child care, Oliver Wiand said.

(Video) A Crisis of Care: Iowa's Childcare Predicament - Obermann Conversations

“We’re trying to look at this in creative, different ways because not one way is going to make it work,” she said.

Nicole Crain, executive vice president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, said the employer engagement position will be “really critical” and act as a “one-stop shop” to help businesses across the state get more information and learn what other companies are doing.

Something businesses need is connecting with other businesses that have had success implementing child care, she said.

Even if employers can’t build a child care center, Crain said ABI has seen employers get more engaged in connecting their employees to resources in the community. Being flexible is also important for businesses to keep in mind, Crain said.

“Employers that are succeeding, that’s what they’re doing,” Crain said. “They’re changing up their shifts. They’re doing whatever they can because there are child care solutions out there, but it’s going to take a while to implement some of them.”

Investing pandemic relief dollars

Experts say changes to public policy also are needed. Some employers are waiting for government action, said Banta, of the Iowa City Area Business Partnership.

Various recommendations are listed in a November 2021 report from Gov. Kim Reynolds’ child care task force. They include support for businesses, child care providers, families and the child care workforce.

Reynolds also has directed a portion of the state’s federal pandemic money to address the child care crisis. A $25 million grant program announced in May encourages Iowa employers to offer child care for their workers.

Reynolds has directed state agencies to implement many of the recommendations of the task force.

The governor has invested more than $500 million of state and federal funds on child care.

City and county governments also are investing pandemic relief funds into child care.

Johnson County, for example, is investing $750,000 to create a wage incentive program for child care providers. Plus, the county is spending $3 million to create an affordable child care program on county-owned property, as well as $400,000 to create an incentive program for state-funded child slots.

Addressing workforce shortage within child care

As businesses nationwide and in Iowa navigate the labor shortage, the child care industry is experiencing its own worker challenges.

(Video) Close Up: Advocates discuss steps taken to address Iowa's child care crisis

Common reasons why those in the child care industry are leaving include low wages and lack of benefits, Oliver Wiand said. Part of the governor’s task force included discussions about how to increase wages and benefits for providers, she added.

Among the suggestions outlined in the child care task force report would be an increased investment in established state programs that focus on boosting compensation, including TEACH and WAGE$.

Other suggestions: investing in workforce education compensation, such as tuition assistance for those interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education with a commitment to work in child care for a set number of years afterward; and registered apprenticeship programs in child care development that allow participants to earn money while they learn.

There is a recommendation to develop a shared services model that allows child care providers to access a statewide, online partnership platform for support on business operations.

Experts told The Gazette the child care industry has struggled to remain competitive, especially with other businesses upping their wages and offering benefits.

In Hamilton County, a public-private partnership formed to create a retention and hiring bonus program for child care staff at four centers.

The program was launched last year and is funded by donations from businesses and local government. McKinley Bailey, executive director of not-for-profit Building Families, said businesses have donated about $500,000 and local governments have chipped in $250,000 to be used over four years.

The need to address child care staffing in Hamilton County was evident when child care centers were half full due to lack of staffing, Bailey said. Businesses in town were hiring candidates who said they could start — as soon as they find child care — or having employees quit when they lost their child care, he added.

“In our part of the state and in most rural areas, the problem is not a lack of infrastructure,“ Bailey said. ”It’s the inability to staff the infrastructure that already exists.“

While the retention and hiring bonus has been helpful, there still is a challenge to remain competitive with wage increases in other professions, Bailey said.

Bailey said the progress of the program will be tracked over the years, paying attention to how many empty child care slots are being filled and turnover rates.

“If we can keep people in the profession for longer, then we’re addressing not just that we’ve filled these slots but also the kids are receiving a quality learning experience from an experienced child care provider,” Bailey said.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; izabela.zaluska@thegazette.com

(Video) Iowa parents struggle with high child care costs

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How can we help the early care and education workforce? ›

Strategies to support the ECE workforce may include: Increase staff compensation or provide incentives. Provide benefits including paid leave, health insurance, child care, and retirement benefits.

How does the lack of available child care affect the economy? ›

And often, careers take a big hit. Accrued Social Security benefit rates, they're lower. Savings rates, lower. And nationally, the cost of lost earnings, productivity and revenue, from a lack of good child care options is an estimated $57 billion annually.

What do you value most about working in childcare? ›

You get to see children's development and learning firsthand as children grow and flourish under your care. In many families parents rely on child care so they can work, so they entrust you with their children – and what a privilege it is to play a role in children's lives during those vital first five years.

What is the most challenging aspect of working in childcare? ›

10 biggest challenges you face working in childcare
  • Not enough time in the day to do everything.
  • Too much paperwork.
  • Not enough time spent with the children.
  • Difficulty recruiting staff who are qualified.
  • Not getting enough support.
  • Difficulties in communicating with parents.
11 Mar 2016

Why is team Working important in the early years and childcare sector? ›

Team work is essential in order to develop positive relationships with families/carers. This leads to a positive environment where children feel safe and happy. Effective team working leads to positive outcomes for children with regard to their development, health and well-being.

Why is it important for the early childhood workforce to become a more unified profession? ›

"Right now, there is so much variation in quality across states and settings. Having a unified definition of who we are as early childhood educators will allow us to create more cohesion across the country—leading to more equity for children no matter where they are."

How does childcare help the economy? ›

Investment in child care means more income for families—for quality food, education, and savings. It means more jobs and inclusive economic growth. It means better futures for children, and more productive working adults.

Why is childcare important to the economy? ›

Increased labour force participation generates many important economic, social and fiscal benefits. By facilitating higher employment (especially among parent-age women), it supports higher incomes, spending, production, employment and tax revenue. All this contributes to stronger economic growth and higher incomes.

Why is childcare important to society? ›

High-quality child care keeps children safe and healthy. In addition, it helps children develop skills they will need for success in school and in their lives outside of school: Social, emotional and communication skills. Pre-literacy and basic mathematical skills and concepts.

What are three important skills that childcare workers should have? ›

Here are several important skills that child care workers commonly have:
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Planning and instruction. ...
  • Creative thinking. ...
  • Decision-making skills. ...
  • Problem-solving skills. ...
  • Analytical skills. ...
  • Compassion and empathy. ...
  • Organizational skills.

What strengths do you need to work in childcare? ›

Examples of child care worker skills
  • Communication. Communicating with children requires you to convey ideas and instructions in ways that are easy for them to understand. ...
  • Problem-solving creativity. ...
  • Patience. ...
  • Physical energy. ...
  • Teaching. ...
  • Monitoring. ...
  • Planning. ...
  • Leadership.
25 Jun 2021

What motivates you to work in childcare? ›

Most people choose to work in childcare because they enjoy working with children. You may have a large number of siblings, relatives, or younger family members to care for, or you may have worked as a babysitter for several years and believe that this is the groundwork for a career you can be passionate about.

What makes teamwork effective in early years? ›

Good communication is absolutely essential for good teamwork. To be able to work well together you must have really good communication at all levels and in all directions. This includes all interactions and exchanges of information, both written and verbal, as well as sharing skills and knowledge.

How can you encourage teamwork in childcare? ›

Parents can impart kindness to their children and promote teamwork by encouraging them to participate in community activities, by creating a team-oriented environment, and by having an optimistic outlook that leads through example.

What makes a good team environment in childcare? ›

To communicate well within a team individuals need to: • engage in active listening • try to understand each other's feelings and points of view • respect and appreciate the values, knowledge and skills of others • solve problems collaboratively • be open to learning from each other.

Why is workforce education important? ›

The aim of workforce development is to foster prosperity for individuals, communities, and businesses. In practice, workforce development means offering your employees training, development opportunities, and continuing education programs to maximize their job success and career pathway.

What is the main reason for strengthening early childhood education? ›

Education for children in the early years lays the foundation for lifelong learning and for the total development of a child. The early years of a human being, from 0 to 6 years, are the most critical period when the brain grows to at least 60-70 percent of adult size.

Why is it important that you work with other professionals to support better outcomes for children? ›

Working effectively with other professionals, both within your setting, and externally is key to providing a good service to families. It supports the individual development of children, ensures continuity of care and supports the sustainability of your business.

What is the most important role of a childcare? ›

Childcare helps support parents in their social and professional endeavours whilst assisting children in reaching important developmental milestones. Those are just two of the most obvious purposes of childcare.

What are the opportunities in the childcare sector? ›

Additional employment opportunities include; Early Years Education; Early Years Childcare; Children with Specific Learning Needs; Children's Residential Care Centres; Family and Community Support Centres; After School Services; Youth Services, Disability Support, Family Support Worker, Childcare Worker in Refuge, …

What are the positive effects of daycare? ›

According to research, enrollment in a high-quality daycare center can have a significant, long-lasting impact on children's social and emotional development. Consistent socialization and play in early childhood have been associated with higher levels of empathy, resilience, and prosocial behavior later in life.

What is the most important in an early care for children? ›

For children to achieve their full potential, as is their human right, they need health care and nutrition, protection from harm and a sense of security, opportunities for early learning, and responsive caregiving – like talking, singing and playing – with parents and caregivers who love them.

Is the childcare industry growing? ›

b. The U.S. child care market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.15% from 2022 to 2030 and is expected to reach USD 83.6 billion by 2030.
Report AttributeDetails
Growth rateCAGR of 4.15% from 2022 to 2030
Base year for estimation2021
Historical data2017 - 2020
Forecast period2022 - 2030
9 more rows

What are core values in childcare? ›

Core Values

Recognize that children are best understood and supported in the context of family, culture, community, and society. Respect the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each individual (child, family member, and colleague). Respect diversity in children, families, and colleagues.

Where is childcare needed the most? ›

Detailed List Of The Best States For Childcare Providers
RankState# Of People
46 more rows
1 Aug 2022

What are the benefits of early childhood education? ›

5 ways your child benefits from early childhood education
  • They'll develop good habits. Daily routines help children feel safe and secure. ...
  • They'll develop literacy and numeracy skills. ...
  • They'll develop emotional resilience. ...
  • They'll enjoy a successful future. ...
  • They'll develop a lifelong love of learning.

What are the 4 types of skills needed in today's workforce? ›

The most important skills needed to be successful in today's workforce are:
  • Drive.
  • Communication.
  • Collaboration.
  • Creativity.
  • Adaptability.
7 Dec 2020

What makes you unique as a child care worker? ›

Example: "What makes me unique as a Child Care Worker is my love for children. Attending to the basic needs of children comes naturally to me and my friendly nature makes it easy to win the love of children. In my previous roles, my colleagues often joked that I have the energy of a seven-year-old.

What are three things that need to be in place for a child care setting to be inclusive? ›

Understanding Inclusion

Their statement included the three essential elements for ensuring that the needs and priorities of infants and young children with disabilities and their families are met in inclusive opportunities: access, participation, and supports.

What are your strength interview question childcare? ›

Some questions may include:

Why do you want to work in childcare? - Be honest and show your passion for working with children. What are your strengths? - Emphasize what you're good at (your patient, you're creative, you're enthusiastic, your versatile - and provide an example of your strength in a childcare situation).

What is your greatest strength when working with children? ›

Want to Work With Children: 5 Skills and Qualities You Should Be Working On
  • Patience. Patience is listed first because it is the most important. ...
  • The Ability to Hide Frustration or Annoyance. Kids can pick up on even the slightest shift in your demeanor. ...
  • Keeping Calm in an Emergency. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Enthusiasm.
30 Jan 2014

What is a strength based approach in childcare? ›

This is an integrated teaching and learning approach where two or more individuals work together in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate activities, or extend a narrative.

Why do you want to work in childcare best answer? ›

Example: Your commitment to inspiring a life-long love of learning resonates with me. Children form their attitudes to education early, and I'd like to be part of the reason they want to know more about the world around them.

What is your greatest strength answer samples childcare? ›

Example: "My greatest strength is my ability to think creatively and come up with exciting ways to deliver learning outcomes to children. Applying this strength helps keep young children engaged and encourages them to have a positive attitude toward learning.

What do you gain from working with children? ›

Every day working with children provides an opportunity to teach them life lessons, useful skills, and important knowledge. Careers involving children offers the privilege to positively influence social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development!

What are three critical challenges impacting early childhood? ›

http://www.flbt5.com/. Three critical challenges impacting early childhood practices are: addressing disparities in school success and achievement, integrating and aligning preschool and elementary school programming and improving teacher preparation, professional development and on-going support.

How do you overcome challenges in early childhood education? ›

How to Overcome the Challenges of Teaching Preschoolers
  1. Maintaining the Attention of Young Kids. One of the biggest challenges of teaching preschoolers is retaining the attention of your students. ...
  2. Managing Misbehavior in the Classroom. ...
  3. Communicating with Family Members. ...
  4. Surviving the Physical Demands of the Job.
25 Mar 2021

What's your greatest strength as a childcare educator? ›

10 Qualities of Great Early Childhood Educators
  1. Patience. Full of curiosity and excitement, and eager to learn, touch, and do, little kids can be impulsive and reactive. ...
  2. Passion for Teaching. ...
  3. Love for Young Children. ...
  4. Caring and Compassion. ...
  5. Flexibility. ...
  6. Empathy. ...
  7. Creativity. ...
  8. Organization.
13 Aug 2021

What strengths make you a great applicant for this unique style of childcare? ›

Strengths As a Child Care Worker
  • Love for Children. It takes a special type of personality to connect with young children on their level and to establish a loving rapport with them. ...
  • Patience. Few people have endless supplies of patience, but child care workers need to come pretty close. ...
  • Flexibility. ...
  • Communications Skills.

What motivates you to apply for this position? ›

After you show them you're targeting specific things in your job search, talk about what caught your interest. What is this? You could mention details you saw on the job description, on the company website, etc. Show them you understand what their role involves and are excited to be doing the work!

What are two current trends affecting early childhood education? ›

Current trends in early childhood education include incorporating early literacy, introducing children to science education, and exposing kids to an integrated curriculum. These trends help students to prepare for future learning experiences in the K-12 environment.

What is one of the most challenging problem in education? ›

Challenges in the Education Industry: The Post-COVID Reality

The primary challenge is the imbalance between the efficiency, the pace of learning, quality, and overall learning experience in offline and online classes. There is a huge demand for lifelong learning to cope with social and technological changes.

What are the three basic issues of child development? ›

When studying development, we often distinguish between three basic aspects or domains of development: physical, cognitive, and social-emotional.

How can we improve early childhood education? ›

Provide each child with opportunities for rich, engaging play and opportunities to make choices in planning and carrying out activities. Use open-ended activities that encourage children to work together and solve problems to support learning across all areas of development and curriculum.

How in your role as an early educator can you promote and support the children's development of grit? ›

Inspire children to take risks.

Encourage them to answer a problem they're not sure they know the answer to or to try something new. Share something you've learned from taking safe risks or making a mistake. Remember, children won't fail or make mistakes if they don't take risks.

How do you promote early childhood education? ›

5 Ways to Improve the Quality of Early Care and Education
  1. 1 Focus first on children's safety, health, and happiness. ...
  2. 2 Support the early care and education workforce. ...
  3. 3 Use observations and assessments to support every child's needs across all developmental domains. ...
  4. 4 Create a culture of continuous quality improvement.
26 Apr 2013

How do you support staff in childcare? ›

Listening to your team can help show that they feel appreciated and supported.
However it is important that managers find just 5 to 10 minutes a day to pop into the rooms too;
  1. Find out what is going on.
  2. Talk to practitioners.
  3. Role model best practice.
  4. Show their support and gain respect.
15 Aug 2016

What makes a successful early education program? ›

What does a high quality early childhood program look like? A high quality early childhood program provides a safe and nurturing environment while promoting the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development of young children.

What is the most important issue in early childhood education? ›

Declining Mental Health. An early childhood educator needs to be their best self in the classroom. This is not only for their own sake but for the well-being of the kids in their care. The problem of declining mental health in the ECE field affects little ones, so it's an issue everyone should care about.

What are 5 things that we as educators can do to help children with special needs? ›

See Also
  • Discover your students' strengths. ...
  • Provide positive role models with disabilities. ...
  • Develop strength-based learning strategies. ...
  • Use assistive technologies and Universal Design for Learning tools. ...
  • Maximize the Power of your students' social networks. ...
  • Help students envision positive future careers.
9 Apr 2013

How do you think you can continue to improve and grow as an educator in the next year? ›

What can teachers do to keep learning?
  • Participate in workshops, seminars and courses;
  • Group with other educators who are open to share their ideas, methods and techniques;
  • Observe colleagues' classes: learn what works for students from a delivery standpoint.
7 Dec 2021

What is one thing you as an early childhood educator might do to support a child's cognitive learning? ›

Read books and tell jokes and riddles. Encourage stacking and building games or play with cardboard boxes. Do simple jigsaw puzzles and memory games. Play games that combine moving and singing – for example, 'If you're happy and you know it'.

How can we promote early childhood literacy in our community? ›

Even everyday activities—singing, talking, playing, shopping, and doing chores around the house—have the potential to boost children's literacy by strengthening both children's oral language development and their knowledge of the world around them.

How do you motivate staff in childcare? ›

4 Ways to Maintain Motivation with Your Childcare Staff—Without Spending a Dime
  • Recognition and praise. Simply recognizing the hard work your teachers do can go a long way toward motivating your childcare staff. ...
  • Respect and follow through. ...
  • Positive leadership. ...
  • Daily communication. ...
  • Keep the motivation going.
25 May 2021

What is effective support in childcare? ›

Positive Relationships are:

sensitive and responsive to the child's needs, feelings and interests. supportive of the child's own efforts and independence. consistent in setting clear boundaries. stimulating. built on key person relationships in early years settings.


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