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Strategic planning to address childcare deficit in Lee County

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The results of a community survey on the childcare market in Lee County show a deficit of as many as 1,600 childcare slots.

In addition, more than of employers have experienced reduced productivity due to parents’ childcare challenges.

The Lee County Health Department conducted the survey with assistance from First Children’s Finance.

They surveyed parents, employers, and childcare providers in the county and were pleased with the response.

“We had great social media engagement with that survey. It was shared many, many times. It reached a lot of folks in the Lee County area. The survey was very long, but we ended up getting about 350 responses,” said Breanna Kramer-Riesberg, community outreach and development project coordinator for the health department.

Around 200 completed the entire survey, she said.

Lee County has 4,810 children under the age of 11 and 2,646 of those are likely to use childcare. But there are only 1,035 year-round spaces in the county.

Kramer-Riesberg said one of the more surprising takeaways from the survey is that only 40% of current parents are in their preferred childcare setting.

In addition, 77% of parents with children age five and under found it difficult to find childcare, primarily due to lack openings, while childcare providers reported their major challenges are staffing, space, and funding.

Another issue is that the average pay for childcare workers is $8.65 an hour in the region.

The survey also revealed differences in the childcare market within different communities in the county.

The results of the survey were presented to the community this week.

Kramer-Riesberg said the county will now engage in a strategic planning process to address the childcare deficit.

Participants including employers, childcare providers, schools, and public officials will need to commit to attending all five meetings on Sept. 13, Sept. 27, Oct. 11, Oct. 25, and Nov. 8, at Lee County Economic Development Center in Montrose.

For more information, contact Kramer-Riesberg at bkramer-reisberg@leecountyhd.org.

The full results of the survey are available online.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson covers west central Illinois and southeast Iowa for Tri States Public Radio.