Danville-Boyle County Early Childhood Alliance Updates Kiwanis about Needs in the Area

By ROBERT CUNNINGHAM

Kiwanis Club of Danville

 On Oct. 17, Tom Poland, Amy Longwill and Patten Mahler presented to Kiwanis Club of Danville about the background, status and goals of the Danville-Boyle County Early Childhood Alliance.

The club heard details about how DBECA is working to raise awareness, seek funding and promote initiatives to serve our youngest children and their families — the future of our community, and help remedy some of the issue that half of kindergarteners in Boyle County are not being properly ready to learn as they enter elementary school.

In fact, 52.4% of kindergarteners in Boyle County lack the physical, linguistic, cognitive, social or emotional skills necessary to benefit from instruction at the kindergarten level. These initial deficiencies have long-term effects, such as an increased likelihood of committing a crime, dropping out of school and needing government assistance. These effects are amplified for at-risk kids. 

Each dollar invested in high-quality early learning programs returns up to $17 in the years ahead, enriching the future workforce, decreasing social costs, adding value to the community’s amenities and supporting the current workforce in need of childcare.

There are 977 children aged 0-2 living in Boyle County. It is estimated that childcare centers have a capacity of 202 full-time infants and toddlers, which classifies the community as a “childcare desert” (less than one slot per three children). 68% of children are served at facilities rated as 1- or 2-stars (low quality) on the Kentucky ALL STARS quality rating system. 

The median price for full-time infant care in Boyle County is $22/day, below the median prices in rural ($25) and urban ($30) areas in Central Kentucky. 195 kids (ages 0-4 combined) of working families with income below 165% of the poverty line receive the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) subsidy of up to $28/day. 

An estimated 150 infants and toddlers would be eligible for Early Head Start, a federally-funded program, but Boyle County has no Early Head Start.

There are 663 children aged 3-4 living in Boyle County. It is estimated 316 full-time kids could be served by current providers; 73% at low quality facilities. The median price in Boyle County is $20.50/day, below the median price in rural ($23) and urban ($27) areas in Kentucky. 

CCAP reimburses this care at a maximum of $25/day. Boyle’s Head Start is a high-quality, federally funded program offered at no cost to families below the poverty line. Boyle has 20 Head Start slots located in Harrodsburg’s center, yet likely over 100 children qualify.

There are several high-quality, part-day options; 3- and 4-year-olds with disabilities and 4-year-olds living in families below 160% of the poverty line can attend preschool at no cost.  Boyle County also admits students who pay tuition. In 2018, 227 children attended preschool at Danville Independent and Boyle County Schools. Wilderness Trace Child Development Center has a high-quality, part-time program for children aged 2-5 that provides educational and therapeutic services for 52 children with and without disabilities.

For families who provide care in their home, there are three no-cost services focused on enriching child development. HANDS is a weekly home visitation program provided by the local health department. They enroll families before or just after a baby is born and provide one-on-one support and resources. Cradle School is run by Families First in Danville Independent Schools. It consists of on-site and home visit sessions to teach parents activities to improve kindergarten readiness. The Gladys Project is an early-intervention literacy program that provides individualized weekly sessions with parents on how to develop their children’s pre-literacy skills.

Danville-Boyle County Early Childhood Alliance issues these recommendations:

  • Increase childcare capacity for 0-2 age group by removing barriers for providers who want to expand their services and by supporting new services, including additional licensed childcare facilities or individuals interested in providing certified family childcare in their home. The most common barriers are space and staffing.
  • Increase wrap-around services for 3-4 age group, such as care before and after pre-K and transportation between services, to provide seamless childcare for a full workday. This would allow working parents to take advantage of high-quality early childhood education services.
  • Increase quality for all age groups by improving staff access to quality-enhancing training and coaching services provided by Child Care Aware and Childcare Council of Kentucky. Partner with local higher-education agencies to incentivize more early childhood education graduates.  Develop ways for the community to invest in quality improvements.
  • Strengthen community understanding of the importance of early childhood development through public awareness campaigns, supporting providers’ efforts to educate parents, and supporting kindergarten-readiness initiatives to families not using regulated care.
  • Develop a collaborative network of early childhood and family services, guiding families across providers to ensure their needs are met and reaching out to underserved families.
  • Bring the price of care in line with the value of services provided to ensure adequate compensation of high-quality caregivers and foster quality-enhancing improvements. As prices rise, develop ways to subsidize the cost of care to ensure low-income families have access to services.
  • Bring Head Start and Early Head Start to Boyle County by partnering with Bluegrass Community Action Partnership, the grantee of federal funding for Boyle County Head Start.
  • Promote the continued diversity within provider settings so the children from different backgrounds learn and grow together.

The Danville-Boyle County Early Childhood Alliance believes in taking action with urgency in order to raise public awareness about some of the most pressing issues impacting early childhood development in our area. Those who want to help can encourage businesses and organizations (public, private and civic) to publicly endorse DBECA, and ask representatives to increase funding for early childhood initiatives (K and Pre-K). 

In addition, donations can be made to the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation, marking funds for “DBECA.” For more information on getting involved, email DBECAinfo@gmail.com or  visit DBECA.org.  Sign up for free texts from from Ready4K for facts and tips on how to promote children’s development by visiting DBECA.org/ready4K.

For information on Kiwans, email KiwanisDanville@gmail.com and visit www.Kiwanis.org.