Throughout our daily lives, we’re flooded with data. Every waking moment, we choose which pieces of information to accept and which to reject. We look at the statistics behind the coronavirus, we determine how concerned we should be. We also quote research when we’re certain we can make an impact on an argument or in a conversation.
Although our lives are flooded with information, for many working parents, one worry looms large on a Sunday night: who can care for their children when they go to work? This concern is neither a lullaby nor a bedtime story but instead a keep-you-awake-at-night concern, particularly for rural Nebraskan parents.
Levi Adam, a Communities for Kids lead is a proponent of using data to create a story and make informed decisions. As a result, he’s part of an analytics team for the Communities for Kids Cultivating Kids initiative. But before the group creates the ideal childcare center, first they need to gather the facts. Together, the team members compiled a survey to gauge their community’s childcare needs.
Before he even receives the results, however, Levi, who formerly worked for an economic development district, which worked closely with the Department of Economic Development, can already say one thing for certain: childcare is impactful to our economy, and for rural Nebraskan communities to thrive, we need quality childcare.
“In economic development, you see the two biggest hindrances in rural Nebraska are housing and childcare,” said Levi.
When C4K, one of Nebraska Children’s Early Childhood initiatives dedicated to supporting providers, programs, and communities in creating quality care, held its first meeting, Levi knew he could help.
Levi grew up in Wilcox, then after a 15-year hiatus, he moved back in 2017. Despite his time away, Levi returned to his hometown with the desire to help his community in some way.
“I like the idea of helping communities, but it’s not always easy to know where I should put my time,” said Levi.
For Levi, aside from data, personal experience and empathy have been a powerful tool. When Levi moved back to town, he observed young families struggling to find childcare in their area.
“There are people in my demographic who did the city thing and would like to go back to rural Nebraska,” said Levi. But in these cases, unfortunately, the call of home isn’t strong enough. For young families to enjoy the comradery and comfort of a rural community like Wilcox, they need to find quality childcare.
“I have friends who would LOVE to move back to Wilcox; it’s a great environment to raise kids, especially for people in their late 20s and early 30s,” said Levi. “But when they have kids, if they can’t work out a childcare center, that can prevent them from moving back.”
According to Levi, childcare shouldn’t be on a wish list but a checked box of small town “must-haves.”
“If you don’t have [childcare], the opportunity costs are great,” said Levi, “Because otherwise, you’re missing out on people who want to move to your town.”
So, why does this matter?
“If someone can’t move to the community, they’ll sink their roots in somewhere else. They could have been a family who lives for 30 to 40 years in your town, and now they live somewhere else,” said Levi. “You don’t have to have that.”
Aside from contributing to a lively population, the lack of childcare can remove people from our workforce.
“Employers whose employees don’t have quality care have to miss work,” said Levi.
Levi and the team await the survey responses, which may confirm what the research states: the lack of quality care is very real. But, while playing the waiting game, the group has seen some flashes of hope.
“There’s some excitement already,” said Levi. “I got a call from a pastor in town. He said he and his parish are interested; he wants to be involved! That [survey] alone is doing something,” said Levi. “We’re being intentional with potential solutions, and that has an impact.”
Levi said that whereas he and the team will welcome new members and input, if anyone wants to jump the gun and start creating their childcare center, then, full steam ahead!
“If someone wants to do it on their own, that’s even better!” Said Levi. “No need to wait for us.”
While the group looks for data-backed answers, Levi said he has a vision. “For our group to come up with an achievable, sustainable center, that’s a big one to me,” he said.
The questions from the survey abound. “What’s the need? How do we figure it out? If we could have a solid plan, fundraising, and have a unity of purpose, that would be great,” said Levi. “The answer has to match the town.”
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