Volunteers create task force to solve a lack of child care options in the area 

Published 9:13 am Monday, April 9, 2018

Understanding the landscape 

With the impending closing of A Children’s Place day care facility, community members from various businesses and backgrounds are joining together to quickly find stable short-term and determine long-term child care solutions for parents and employers.

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Dr. Patten Mahler, assistant professor of Economics at Centre College, and Tom Poland, retired Farmers Bank executive, have volunteered to organize a task force to research early childhood development and education issues and identify local organizations that can be helpful.

For example, Poland said they found out about the Boyle County Community Early Childhood Council. 

“Apparently that has been around for a while,” Poland said. Through this contact, the council is forming a community needs assessment study for the task force.

In an email from Ben Nelson, Economic Development Partnership chairman, he said there will also be “fact finding through conversations with community leaders about the state of early childhood development.”

Nelson said, “The decision as to who best can provide care to our children is a deeply personal decision. In the end, by working together, we will have better outcomes as we support those in need, than working alone.”

Poland said another group from Centre is forming a questionnaire to pinpoint particular needs in the community.

“We’re in the fact-finding mode,” Poland said.

Mahler said, “We want to get to the bottom of why we’re in this situation,” not why Ephraim McDowell Health decided to close A Children’s Place. They want to figure out what the community wants and needs when it comes to childcare issues, she said.

Mahler is a labor economist and realizes the impact good child care options have on the work force and the area’s economic development.

She is also a mom whose child once attended ACP. In addition, Mahler said her students in a CentreTerm class worked on a project in early 2017, based on a suggestion from former executive director of the Boyle County Chamber of Commerce Paula Fowler, to research early child care and developmental needs of the area.

“That started my understanding of the landscape,” Mahler said.

Being on the task force is an opportunity to “think about the big picture and changes in the long run,” Mahler said.

That doesn’t necessarily mean having a large day care facility. She said working parents need choices for child care providers. “It’s a personal choice,” she said.

But right now, parents don’t have many choices — and the choices they do have include being on a long waiting list or having to take their children to another county for daycare. 

Mahler said parents don’t get their choice right now, and have to settle for what’s available. “The waiting lists are up the wazoo,” she said.

Mahler said the task force is currently working on a developing a specific focus, so when public discussions and roundtables are held, not a lot of time will be wasted gathering data.

“We’re trying to get our feet on the ground,” Mahler said.

Once that happens, they will have public meetings to brainstorm and figure out what is feasible and what people would support, she said.

“We’re hoping other people will identify themselves and want to work together on this issue,” Mahler said. “It’s not up to us to decide what the best way to fix this is. It needs to work for the community. I hope they can rally around toward a solution.”

Mahler said they are welcoming members of businesses and schools, as well as organizations like the United Way and EDP — “All who have a stake in this, is who we are hoping to get there.”

Mahler said the task force’s strength is also its weakness: “It’s not under anybody’s umbrella. It’s a group of community members trying to organize … It’s a terribly unfortunate situation, but hopefully we will be better for it,” Mahler said.

The task force held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss preliminary questions that need to be answered before a plan can be implemented.

A social media flier promoting the event read, “Danville is a child care center desert; there are fewer than 500 spaces at licensed childcare providers for the over 1,500 children under the age of 5 in Boyle County. Without access to quality care, we cannot be a growing and thriving community.”

Mahler said, child care decisions “are so personal, we want to make sure we communicate that we’re not trying to shoehorn anybody … We just want people to have a choice.”

Poland said the closing of ACP after being in business for about 27 years “may be a blessing in disguise,” in reference to the community as a whole coming together to explore new child care options. 

Child care provider update

In an email sent by Ben Nelson last week, he provided an update from Jody Lassiter, president and CEO of the EDP, which stated:

• One child care start-up prospect withdrew after being briefed on the state regulatory requirements and costs.

• One existing area provider indicated its company wasn’t interested in the smaller Danville market due to the start-up costs and limited current and future profit margins.

• One existing area provider was referred to the available space being targeted by the prospect that withdrew.

•One existing area provider is looking to lease premises from a church, faith-based organization or non-profit.

• One existing provider in Perryville plans to expand to a second facility.

• One existing provider in Danville plans to expand into adjacent leased facilities.


To help parents and guardians locate possible providers for their children, several community members have volunteered to constantly update an online spreadsheet that also contains location and contact information for each licensed provider in Boyle and surrounding counties. It can be viewed at bit.ly/2ErbMvo.