The Salina Area United Way has started the Early Childcare Initiative Fund.
According to the United Way, the ultimate goal of starting this fund is to make strong and lasting steps towards combating childcare issues and shortages in Saline County.
The first step in the childcare initiative is to increase wages across our existing centers in Salina. Centers in the community are currently paying childcare staff at poverty level wage, which is why multiple rooms at existing centers are closed. Wages will be increased to the living wage, which has been found by the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce to be $15 an hour. Nonprofit centers will have the ability, once funds are raised, to apply for sustainability grants to combat the existing wage gap.
Currently, a pipeline of providers in the early childcare field is not being seen in the Saline County area due to the drastically low wages. To address this issue, wages must be increased for students to want to choose early childcare as their future pathway in life and be seen as a viable, living income.
“Wages have been pinpointed as the number one critical piece as to why we’re struggling to retain childcare workers and keep rooms open at centers,” says Claire Ludes, Executive Director of the Salina Area United Way. “How can we expect to gain quality staff in local childcare centers at a poverty level wage?”
The Salina Area United Way will be working directly with this fund to look at the opportunities for renovation and expansion of current centers and spaces in the area.
At this time, existing real estate is available in the area that could be utilized for childcare and creating more childcare slots for families in the community.
According to data from Child Care Aware of Kansas, 1081 children in Saline County are currently in need of childcare slots, with up to 10 children needing childcare in the county per childcare opening. However, building new centers to combat the ongoing issue, which costs anywhere between $1.5 million to $3 million depending on licensing
numbers, is not what is needed as a resolution at this time in the community. Saline County currently has licensed capacity for 708 children but is currently only serving 446 children due to wage issues and existing rooms that are forced to close.
“With existing rooms closed and existing real estate available to renovate, the number of potential slots through these avenues is a key starting point in addressing moving the needle in regards to childcare issues in Saline County,” says Ludes. “Once we can get our current facilities fully staffed, renovated, and at full capacity, then we can begin to look at the next steps and opportunities with creating additional slots that may be needed from there.”
For more information about Salina Area United Way and the work they are doing in the community, contact the Salina Area United Way office at 785-827-1312. Stay tuned for more upcoming information regarding the Early Childcare Initiative Fund.
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