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Letters to the Editor

Southwest Iowa Provider Awareness

Southwest Iowa Provider Awareness is hosting a fall vendor and craft show from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 7 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 600 W. Michigan St., in Lenox. Catholic Youth Organization, grades 7-12, will be serving food and lunch. There are more than 30 vendors and crafters to meet all your shopping needs.

Provider Awareness started in 2008, originally through MATURA Child Care Resource and Referral. They had their biggest event in 2009 at the Creston Balloons Days parade with more than 100 participants with providers and their child care families in collaboration with SWCC TriUMPH, CACFP, CCR&R and GV IAEYC. This was the first year books were handed out. We have expanded our participation with other community activities and in other counties. MATURA CCR&R closed July 1, 2011, and the Provider Awareness group has kept going strong. The Southwest Iowa Provider Awareness group officially became nonprofit in 2014.

The Provider Awareness group has a goal of raising community awareness in quality child care. We are not just babysitters, we are professionals in the field of child care.

The group participates in community activities in the southwest counties. We have some active child care providers to help with ideas for their counties. We like to have provider feedback and, of course, volunteers to help with these events. If we do not have participants in your county, we do not do any events. This group is run by providers for the providers. The group has regular monthly meetings.

We are always in need of volunteers to help make this group a success. If you are a provider in a home, center or preschool, then we need you.

Much of our budget is from fundraisers. We do these to help build up funds to make these activities possible. We ask local businesses for donations in the counties that we are utilizing funds. We always accept donations. There are many other ways we can make our budget and we take all providers ideas into consideration. Our largest event has been the Balloon Days parade where we hand out more than 800 books. Other activities include Bright Eyes, family fun nights, Lenox Rodeo parade with 350 books. Our budget has been used for books, family fun night activities with meals for families, training room rent for providers and other child care provider supports that is agreed upon by the group.

In July, the state of Iowa had more than 237,000 children under the age of 5 and more than 164,000 from ages 6 through 9. Families with all parents working and children under age 6 is 75 percent. That is a large number in which these children go to child care. Union County has more than 1,600 children from ages 0-9, with 80 percent of families with parents working and children under the age of 6. Taylor County has more than 800 children ages 0-9, with 73 percent of families with parents working and children under the age of 6.

Child care is a very important career and many providers struggle with families and regulations. These statistics can be found on iowaccrr.org under the data and publications tab. You can search each individual county along with other state child care data. To become a registered home provider, there are guidelines that must be followed and they are checked yearly from DHS for compliance measures. These providers can also become QRS rated, from a one to a five star, based on the quality of care in their program. This program is voluntary right now, but is very useful for parents looking for care. If a child care provider is QRS rated, you know that provider is working over and beyond the basic child care regulations. This is not easy to do but many providers are rated. Union County has more than 19 rated at this time.

A child care provider is regulated on how many children are allowed in care at any one time. An unregistered home provider is only allowed five children at any one time, registered providers based on what category they are can have eight to 16, but an assistant or another provider is required whenever there are more than eight children total.

A provider who provides daycare is not going to get rich from doing so, and no one who opens their arms and home to children and their families do so because it is a lucrative business. Most of the time, your daycare provider is open while you are on your way to work and they are still working when you are done and pick up your child. Their hours are long, but they do it because they love those kids. Most in-home providers make less hourly per child than the cost of a large drink at a coffee shop. Yes, multiplied by several, it gets better, but then factor in expenses, taxes and all the things we pay out of pocket for, and it ends up being pretty minimal.

Come show the Southwest Iowa Provider Awareness support along with the Catholic Youth Organization, and join us for some shopping and food at the vendor and craft show Oct. 7 in Lenox.

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