Early Learning Indiana asks for innovative ideas to fix infant, toddler childcare problems

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Care centers for infants and toddlers in Indiana are struggling. Much of the state is considered a childcare desert, meaning there is one early learning seat per three children. That’s making it tough to keep operations running.

Early Learning Indiana has thought of an idea to help and right now, they’re in search of a solution.

Day Early Learning Center located on 16th Street is fully enrolled. Inside, you’ll find 48 infants and toddlers.

“Six classrooms, two infant classrooms and four toddler classrooms,” said Emily Jarboe, the center's director. “We want to provide all the children the best care.”

Quality care is becoming more difficult to provide across the state.

“I see it every day, families are calling and coming into the building and asking if we have any openings for children and we have to turn a lot of people away,” said Jarboe.

Early Learning Indiana issued this statement:

"Unfortunately, access to high-quality early childhood education for children age birth to three is limited for many families. The current business model for providing infant and toddler care is expensive for families with little to no profit margin for providers."

Families are being turned away due of ratios. Early Learning Indiana says there are 80,000 infants across the state and two-thirds of those infants need some kind of care outside of the home.

“Because the ratios are so stringent at 1 to 4, when you get to older children the classroom sizes grows a little bit and it makes it easier for us to afford that classroom,” said Maureen Weber, the president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana. “For providers, we have to sort of look at the mix of children we have in our buildings to make sure we can sustain operations.”

The ratios also impact the price you pay. Weber says families with infants pay about $12,000 a year for care.

“Those ratios keep the cost of care for infants and toddlers pretty high,” Weber added.

Those high costs are pushing families and care centers to make challenging decisions.

“We know providers across the state of Indiana are facing this issue and are closing their doors for inability to be able to sustain their high-quality operations,” said Weber, “Some of them are forced to make challenging decisions like only serving older children, which makes it incredibly hard for families you can imagine, if you’ve got an infant and a four year old. You want to be able to take them to the same place.”

Early Learning Indiana wants to fix this problem and that’s why they’re calling on businesses to help think of innovative ideas. The organization wants people to think outside the box and bring ideas to the table that could benefit all families that need child care.

“How can we flip our business model and innovate our way out of a problem and think about things differently,” said Weber.

According to Early Learning Indiana’s website:

Through the Federal Preschool Development Grant, the state of Indiana is hosting an innovation challenge to solicit bold, new ideas to strengthen the infant and toddler care business model and increase access to early learning opportunities.

“There are places that are using K-12 schools to add infant care,” said Weber. “There are parts of the country that are standing up Airbnbs and are using those for infant and toddler care.”

Weber says all options are on the table and your idea could win you $5,000 to $15,000.

“We’re hoping this competition will allow us to solve for that for families,” said Weber.

A competition that could result in a solution and eliminate the burden.

“We are willing to try anything to be able to provide the services to our children and more families, so that all families have the same opportunity,” said Jarboe.

The Infant and Toddler Access Challenge runs now through October 1. Individuals, teams, businesses and nonprofits are all welcome to submit ideas.

The following factors will be reviewed:

  • Potential cost savings while providing high-quality care
  • Feasibility of implementation
  • Replicability
  • Scalability
  • Innovation

Click here to send in an idea.

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