SKOWHEGAN (WGME)– Finding child care has been difficult in Maine during the pandemic, with at least 21 child care centers closing in 2020.
A new law looks to reverse that by replicating a successful program in Somerset County.
Bouncing Bubbles Child Care has been involved with the program from the very beginning. Not only has it helped the owner grow her business, but it also impacted the children and families she serves. She’s been able to get additional credentials and help with her national accreditation because of the program.
“To know that there’s this group of people that I can reach out to at any time and just chat and talk about things or challenges or successes we’re having is nice. It’s really nice,” Bouncing Bubbles Child Care Owner Chrissie Davis said.
Any time Davis needs help, a coordinator is there.
“If I’m having a challenge with a family or a behavior problem or something like that, I can call her at any time,” Davis said.
She gets this support through Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, the founding member of the “Educare Beyond the Walls Elevate Maine-Somerset Program.” The program is modeled after the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership.
“So we bring a number of resources to the provider so they are supported in growing and developing their business,” KVCAP Child And Family Services COO Tracye Fortin said.
They’ve seen their providers improve their quality ratings through the state.
“The support we provide, they have further developed their business. They haven’t closed their doors even during COVID,” Fortin said.
It also helps working families.
“This model increases access to quality and affordable child care because there are funds that are helping to offset some of the costs so that families are not baring that true cost of care,” Fortin said.
Because of this success, Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) introduced the bill “An Act To Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Success,” which is now law. In part, it will create up to five additional similar programs across the state.
According to the law, the Department of Health and Human services will request applications for the pilot project to start January 1, 2023. The department will prioritize funding for a project that serves a community with lots of children who are economically disadvantaged or effectively involves a variety of partners.
“We still don’t have enough child care but this is definitely going to put us on a path to getting more affordable, quality childcare and we can’t stop here. We got to do more,” Jackson said.
Because of the program, Davis was able to hire an additional person who left to start another childcare business. Davis is excited to see it be implemented statewide.
“I’m just so grateful and I’m so happy that other providers will get to enjoy this same type of program that I’m in,” Davis said.