HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Dr. Bradford Wiles from Kansas State University presented to the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday on the long-awaited child care study. A big key recommendation is that Wiles believes a child care resource leader that he called a community development specialist needs to be hired somewhere.
"My experience has been that, if it's part of another job, it gets the amount of attention that part of your job does," Wiles said. "If someone has a job dedicated to moving this forward, you'll see a lot more progress. In fact, in communities where they have those positions, you see a dramatic change in progress and increasing capacity."
Wiles also said immediate support is needed for current providers, especially in home providers.
"In rural areas, it is almost exclusively in home providers," Wiles said. "They require support. It is a difficult job, particularly when you are faced with some of the challenges of rurality. Those communities depend almost exclusively on in home providers. Supporting them is critical. The more of those you lose, the more you are going to reduce, essentially, your available workforce."
Also, the ARPA money that prompted the study is one source, but money will be needed beyond the ARPA disbursement window.
"Funding like this comes in and it really helps, for a little bit," Wiles said. "I would encourage you to start making plans now for filling these gaps over time. I think, what you will see, in fact, data across the country demonstrates very clearly that your businesses will benefit in a way that they will likely be willing to do some filling of this funding after it expires. They'll see the benefits in productivity, reduced absenteeism, the ability to recruit and retain talent."
Commissioners agreed that the county can help provide resources for the specialist if needed, but that the private sector is where the job needs to reside, so that there is no stigma or bureaucracy that people need to deal with when talking to this person, wherever they end up.