Carpooling with Communities: Driving Our Early Childhood Initiative Home

As working parents, we may feel conflicted by the time spent away from our children. Are they in good hands? Will they be engaged, not plopped in front of the TV? Are they happy? Do they miss us? 

For parents who work from home, another scenario may be familiar. You balance your laptop on your knees while a rambunctious toddler climbs you like a jungle gym. Meanwhile, you pray that he or she doesn’t scream or stomp so as not to disturb the equally overworked downstairs neighbors. 

Elizabeth Everett, Senior Policy Associate, and Alexis Zgud, Communications Associate with First Five Nebraska recently joined Marti Beard, Associate Vice President of Early Childhood Programs at Sehnert’s Bakery for Coffee with a Cop. They discussed statewide efforts being made to improve access to early childhood education in Nebraska. The original image and article are courtesy of Shary Skiles at McCook Gazette.

Then there are Nebraskan families entangled in the mad morning scramble: wake up at 6 a.m., get the kids out of bed, get them ready and dressed, drop them off at a parents’ or daycare, then take a deep breath, rinse, and repeat. 

Still, the question persists – how can we find high-quality early child care?

More than 400 community leaders met Sept. 16 in Kearney, Nebraska at the Thriving Children, Families, and Communities Conference to focus on high-quality early childhood education and its connection to economic development and community vitality.

Here at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, we’re committed to preventing problems before they begin. Prevention is only one of our three values. We also believe in opportunities for every child, which take all of us to nurture. 

Communities for Kids  is one of our early childhood programs created in direct response to the lack of quality early childhood education. When it comes to early childhood, it doesn’t take a village, it takes a community. 

Andrew Long (pictured center), McCook, Nebraska’s Communities for Kids Engagement Lead.

We also believe that everyone has a story. Elizabeth Troyer-Miller has a one that is unique to herself yet rings familiar. A dedicated advocate for early childhood education, Elizabeth told us about her experience trying to find quality childhood care for her infant son. 

When Elizabeth, her husband, and 6-month-old son moved to Wood River, Nebraska, Elizabeth described how her then-part-time job served 35 counties, which meant bouncing around for her and her son. 

“We bounced between seven providers,” said Elizabeth, “There was one [daycare] north of Wood River, so we drove out of the way [to use it] [but] it only worked sometimes.” Elizabeth described this initial pinball effect of trying to find quality child care as difficult, to say the least. 

Nebraska Children Early Childhood initiative representatives and National League of Cities representatives pose for a quick picture at Thriving Children 2019. From left to right: Amy Bornemeier, Marti Beard, Caitlin Goin, Tonja Rucker, and Nancy Zuech Lim.

“I was miserable. Every Sunday night, I was crying, trying to piece the week together,” she said 

Elizabeth said that although her struggle to find high-quality early child care was somewhat rectified, she and her family still face some challenges. 

“We now have two different providers,” she said. “One is a daycare facility and the other is a retired woman, but they still have conflicts.” 

Elizabeth said that her situation has improved because she is now working full-time. “We’re making it work,” she said. “My husband and I have forfeited a lot.” 

But still, hope remains. Like so many of our early childhood initiatives, Elizabeth has become a wellspring of hope for her community, having become involved in Wood River’s own initiative. 

She has since described her community as providing strong support in regards to creating a child care center. Wood River, with volunteers like Elizabeth, is making this dream a reality. 

 The Wood River Vision 20/20 early childhood team is actively fundraising and grant writing, have purchased a vacated nursing home, and will begin renovations soon. Stick Creek Kids, the child care center, is excited about their opening progress. They plan to provide more details on their Facebook page as soon as they’re ready. Meanwhile, dedicated volunteers like Elizabeth and the Wood River Vision Team continue to drive home the mission for excellent early child care. 

Speaking of driving home, if you’re in the middle of carpooling, shuttling, and searching for ways to get involved with an early child care initiative, then the next step is to check out our Communities for Kids site and get involved. We have resources, steps, and ways to get started. Learn more about our early childhood initiatives.

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation supports children, young adults and families at risk with the overall goal of giving our state's most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their full potential. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults.

Posted in Early Childhood, News and Events

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