Coalition announces child care business pilot

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Childcare Coalition has announced a new Childcare Business Lab Pilot program to address regional needs.

Since the beginning of the year, the coalition, convened by the Community Foundation of Marquette County, has been engaged in discussions to address the significant need for child care, the foundation said in a news release. The coalition includes representatives from the community, local government, and nonprofit and economic development organizations.

The coalition’s work found:

≤ A lack of child care openings impedes many parents from returning to work, causing turnover and difficulty in retaining employees.

≤ Many child care workers — particularly entry-level workers — don’t earn family-sustaining wages and can’t afford to stay in the profession.

≤ Education providers are experimenting with rapid certifications and skill development, but for child care providers seeking to build their skills, certification fees for advancement can be a significant barrier.

The Childcare Coalition proposed linking existing resources at the Marquette-Alger Regional Education Service Agency and Great Start to Quality with the Lake Superior Community Partnership to launch an initiative that engages potential home-based child care providers to participate in a business startup and growth accelerator program.

The cohort-based model has been tested in other regions and serves as a prototype for providing both business education and specialized child care service supports to ensure that Marquette County is able to meet the current and future demand for affordable quality child care.

The program would be sustained by a cost-sharing model with employers. LSCP CEO Christopher Germain, in a news release, said there were three key factors in looking at licensed home-based child care providers as one of the feasible solutions to meet the local demand for services.

“Focusing on in-home (providers) allows us to spread the slots across the county, placing them closer to where people live,” Germain said. “In-home has a lower start-up cost, and in-home businesses provide an opportunity for families to generate additional income using an existing asset: their home.”

At the Oct. 4 Marquette County Board of Commissioners meeting, the board approved the recommendation to provide $100,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the Marquette County Childcare Business Lab Pilot. Support for the program will leverage funding from a variety of sources, including government, the business community and private philanthropy.

The Community Foundation has also established a new fund to support child care needs in Marquette County.

“The Marquette County Child Care Coalition has made great gains in understanding the child care needs of the community and creating a pilot that can make an immediate impact, then serve as a model to continue to bring about change in the region,” Marquette-Alger RESA Director of Early Childhood Education Lyndsay Carey said in a news release. “Having all the different stakeholders at the table ensured many perspectives were addressed, brought depth to the conversation and intentionality to the work. The new pilot project will expand the great work that is currently being done in the community and bring additional support.”

The Community Foundation initiated the Marquette County Childcare Endowment Fund to provide long-term support for quality child care programs in the county.

“The Community Foundation is taking a proactive step to build sustainable program support for these initiatives through this new endowment fund. In-home child care providers, day care centers, early childhood education and workforce development are intertwined and form our child care infrastructure,” foundation CEO Zosia Eppensteiner said in a news release. “This fund will allow us to make meaningful investments in charitable programs that help our community address its child care needs.”

To learn more about the fund, contact the Community Foundation at 906-226-7666 or at info@cfofmc.org.


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