A Community that Cares
High-quality child care is important: 90 percent of a child’s brain develops in the first five years of life, and studies show that children who have quality care prior to kindergarten have improved school readiness skills and are more likely to graduate from high school and succeed later in life. That’s one reason the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque is working to remove barriers local families face when it comes to child care.
In 2016, the Community Foundation conducted an assessment to understand what challenges were preventing people from accessing opportunities that would help them thrive. A key finding was that parents struggle to find affordable, quality care for their children, a barrier that prevents them from holding jobs.
With the understanding that child care is a critical piece of infrastructure that drives economic growth, the Community Foundation hosted a summit in 2018 that brought together leaders invested in improving access, affordability and quality. As a result, new partnerships have formed that are helping address this need for Dubuque families.
The Community Foundation received a grant from the Morgridge Foundation to support one solution developed through a partnership between Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) and Greater Dubuque Development Corp. (GDDC).
A pilot program offers free child care to students in a variety of certificate training programs through Opportunity Dubuque, a nationally recognized job training effort that allows individuals to complete industry-driven certifications to upgrade their skills, launch their careers and fill high-demand positions. One program that is part of the pilot is a new child care certificate offered at NICC.
After students earn their certificate, the pilot program then funds their child care needs through their first year of employment. Long-term, organizers hope the program increases the number of qualified providers to help parents find high quality care.
Furthering the partnership with NICC and GDDC, the Community Foundation received a $50,000 Iowa Workforce Development grant to expand the child care pilot.
“The major benefits of this funding are two-fold: We are increasing the capacity of licensed care in the Dubuque area, and we’re removing a significant barrier for individuals who want to train for high-demand careers, yet cannot secure affordable child care services as they learn and train,” said Wendy Mihm-Herold, NICC’s vice president of business and community solutions. “There is no other community organization and higher education partnership offering this assistance program in Iowa right now.”
Care is now being provided to students’ children thanks to a partnership with the Marita Theisen Childcare Center at Steeple Square, which opened in August. “The needs assessment by the Community Foundation and United Way gave us confidence that providing a child care solution was meeting a critical need, and one of the more important things we could do to improve life in the neighborhood and for downtown businesses,” said Judy Wolf, Steeple Square director.
Many families who utilize the center live near enough to walk there, eliminating transportation as a barrier to quality care for their children. Financial barriers have also been lowered. “We had originally budgeted to serve 30% low income families, which is higher than average,” Wolf explained. “However, we made the decision not to turn anyone away, and we’re currently serving just over 60% low income families.”
Support for the new center came in the form of a gift from Jim and Marita Theisen, who used their family funds at the Community Foundation to provide much of the funding to open the facility.
“We’ve relied on many generous donors to be in a position to launch the center, but none more instrumental than the Theisen family. We’re proud to be able to name the center for Marita and have their family so actively involved. There’s not a more wonderful example of selfless giving in the community than Jim and Marita Theisen,” said Wolf.
Help address child care and other needs in the Dubuque region
The Community Foundation offers many opportunities to support work that addresses complex community challenges, including child care access and affordability. Gifts to the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund are one way to help tackle critical needs and strengthen the region for the future.
Though no one can predict what needs will arise in coming years, the Community Foundation is equipped to act — working to forge strategic partnerships and ensure everyone can thrive by bringing resources like quality child care within reach. These data-informed collaborations occur at the intersection of our region’s civic, business, education and philanthropic sectors, putting the Foundation in a position to address our community’s most complex challenges.
Your gift to the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund can help the Foundation address a range of emerging needs and provide opportunities to strengthen our region for the future.
Featured photo: Angela Schrodt, director of the Marita Theisen Childcare Center, picks up her daughter, Prynne, who attends the center; second photo: Zuri Phillips plays with toys at the Marita Theisen Childcare Center; third photo: The Marita Theisen Childcare Center is located at Steeple Square in Dubuque’s Washington Neighborhood.