In September 2020, Loup Valley Childhood Initiative released a survey for those who live and/or working Valley County to complete. The questions in this survey were designed to better understand how parents, individuals, business owners and providers feel about the current state of childcare in Valley County. The following information is results of this survey which have been helpful in guiding LVCI in their next steps to creating quality and capacity childcare in Valley, Greeley and Sherman Counties.
Over half of the survey respondents are full-time employees, and 22% stated they work more than 40 hours a week. Over 75% of employed respondents stated they work in Ord. Half of the respondents stated their median household income is between $40,000-80,000.
When respondents were asked how important they felt high quality child care was to their community, 95% ranked it high. 93.7% stated having enough high quality child care is important for the future of Valley County. The interesting fact is that of those who ranked high quality child care of high importance, only 5.5% stated they know where in the community they can find information on what a high-quality child care program looks like. These results show that while education opportunities for providers is important, education for community members of the expectations of high quality childcare is equally important. If parents do not know what high quality childcare is, they will not be able to identify if their child is receiving quality childcare.
82.76% of respondents are currently using or plan to use a child care provider. 96% stated childcare that is affordable and accessible to all children is important and also that child care that does not cause a work disruption is important in the community. These responses show us that community members view childcare businesses as an integral asset to the function of daily life in Valley County.
Of those not currently using a child care provider, almost 54% stated that is because they are unable to find any. Nebraska Children and Families helped LVCI estimate how many children in Valley County county are not in child care. It is estimated that there are 260 children in Valley County under that age of 6 who have all available parents working, meaning all the parental figures in their home work. There are currently a total of 123 licensed child care spots and 59 preschool spots. That leaves 78 children who are not in child care. If 54% of respondents don’t use child care because they cannot find it, that means the parents of 42 children are compromising their work life or using alternative methods, such as family members, for child care. LVCI predicts that if no action is taken, this number will continue to rise as more young adults are moving to the area and starting families. With COVID highlighting the strengths of a small community, it is more important than ever to capitalize on this potential economic growth opportunity, but that cannot happen without the growth of our child care system.
Why are so many children in Valley County not in a childcare program? 71% of respondents stated they had a hard time securing child care. 8.51% stated it was because of cost, almost 22% said it was because of hours of operation, and almost 90% said finding child care was difficult because of availability.
Lack of childcare is also affecting the business community. 38 business owners in Valley County participated in this survey. Almost 40% stated a lack of child care affected their ability to attain or retain employees, 20% stated lack of child care affected their ability to hire the candidate of choice, and almost 60% stated a lack of child care caused employees to be tardy, miss work, or cause distractions. This data shows us that our local business community views childcare as an integral part of their success.
Employees are dealing with issues surrounding lack of childcare as well though. 36% of surveyed respondents stated a lack of child care caused them to miss work, be tardy, or cause a distraction and almost 30% stated it affected their ability to accept or maintain employment.
Based on this data, and after discussing solutions with current providers, LVCI has developed programs to assist with start up costs, enrollment in Step Up to Quality, education opportunities, provider substitutes and technology barriers. To learn more details about these programs, visit our Projects page!