How Utah is addressing child care challenges

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Utah Office of Child Care program officer KC Hutton said their office’s biggest challenges are accessibility, encouraging people to enter the child care field and helping child care programs become sustainable. However, the Office of Child Care offers a number of resources to address these issues, including subsidies for low-income families, grants for child care providers in rural areas and scholarships that allow child care workers to subsidize professional development courses. (iStock)

See also “How Utah’s child care challenges impact working parents

KC Hutton said the Utah Office of Child Care’s biggest challenges are accessibility, encouraging people to enter the child care field and helping child care programs become sustainable.

Hutton is the program manager at the Utah Office of Child Care, a position she said works to establish policies supporting the quality of child care programs in Utah, as well as professional development of youth and early childhood professionals working in child care after-school programs.

She said the Office of Child Care uses funding received through the Child Care and Development Fund to primarily provide child care subsidies to qualifying low-income families. As of September 2013, these subsidies served 11,361 children statewide, according to the Utah Office of Child Care’s website.

Hutton said the child care subsidies allow the parents and guardians of these children to work.

“Through the subsidy program, the (Office of Child Care) really plays an integral role in supporting the mission of the Department of Workforce Services, which is strengthening Utah’s communities by supporting the economic stability and quality of our workforce,” she said.

Another issue the Office of Child Care works to address is availability. Hutton said the office provides aid to “child care deserts” — rural areas without child care options — by providing grants for child care providers in those areas to start programs and move toward sustainability.

She said another strategy is encouraging the public to see child care as a profession vital to the health and well-being of the economy and the local community. This means providing scholarships to subsidize professional development courses and onsite coaching so child care professionals can gain vital knowledge about child development and implement best practices in their business.

“We have a lot of child care professionals who are working with children during a time of their life when their brain development is undergoing its greatest transformation, its greatest growth,” Hutton said. “We know that child care providers may not be able to incur those types of professional development costs themselves, but in obtaining professional development, that may lead to greater retention in the field and sustainability of the program.”

She added another challenge is targeting funding to low-income families and making sure they can have their children in the same quality of programs as someone who might have a higher income and more child care choices.

Hutton said families looking for child care assistance can go to jobs.utah.gov, click the “assistance” tab and then click “apply for assistance.” They can also visit a Department of Workforce Services employment center for help through the application process.

If a child care program is looking to improve its quality, Hutton said they can reach out to one of six Care About Childcare agencies across the state, which are funded through the Office of Child Care. They provide resources and referral services to families and programs that support quality. Child care programs can also look at the Office of Child Care’s website to see if they’ve released any grants.

Other help includes Care About Child Care’s list of community support resources, including the Utah Women, Infants, and Children Program; Voices for Utah Children; and Utah Family Voices. They also have lists of a variety of other resources, such as caregiver support services, child development resources and upcoming trainings. The Care About Child Care website includes resources for helping parents choose high-quality child care and resources for child care providers.

Additionally, the Utah Association for the Education of Young Children offers the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships for teachers and administrators working in licensed Utah child care centers. The scholarship funds can be used to improve the care children receive, reduce staff turnover by requiring participants to stay with their sponsoring program for a specific period of time after their scholarship year and provide better pay based on additional education.

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