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  • What can I do to help?
    Your support makes all the difference. Here are 7 steps you can take: Educate others on this exciting project in Douglas County. Share input through both formal and informal opportunities. Advocate for early childhood at all levels of government. Implement family-friendly workplace practices at your place of business. Volunteer your time and talents. Donate to Community Children's Center here. Contact Kim Polson at if you would like to get involved.
  • Why early childhood from birth to five?
    Early childhood is an essential time. The first five years are the most critical period for brain development. A child's brain builds over one million neurons per second in the first few years of life. Quality early care and education profoundly impact children's lifelong well-being, education, and income. Research shows that high-quality care and education offered from birth to five years old can set children, particularly those in low-income families, on a path to higher school achievement, college completion, increased earnings, higher levels of employment, and better health, with a high return on investment over time. If we can reach families when their children are young, they will have established the support network they need as their children grow. An investment in early childhood is an investment in the future!
  • Why an early childhood community center?
    A recent statewide needs assessment supported what we already knew. Families with young children are struggling to meet their basic needs, find high-quality child care they can afford when they need it and successfully navigate to connect with services. The ECCC seeks to address these challenges by strengthening and coordinating services to bolster the early childhood ecosystem in Douglas County and better meet the needs of our community. We plan to do this in three ways: Establish a Family Resource Center to help meet the basic needs of families with young children Create a Provider Academy to recruit, retain and support early care and education professionals Implement innovative strategies to increase the number of accessible, affordable and available high-quality child care spots in Douglas County.
  • Will the early childhood community center put other child care facilities out of business?
    The need for child care in Douglas County is vast. As of 2023, we would need 3,000 child care slots, roughly 300 new providers, to meet the demand. Even with the 140 slots the Early Childhood Community Center will offer, our community will still be at a considerable deficit. Therefore, partnerships with other child care organizations will be critical to our success in increasing local services, salary and benefits for providers, training, and educating early child care professionals to provide the highest quality care for Douglas County families.
  • Why the focus on infants and toddlers for child care to be provided at the early childhood community center?
    Research shows that investing in infants and toddlers significantly impacts children's development and return on investment over time due to the number of neural connections made in the first two years of life. Early care and education programs have long struggled to provide affordable, high-quality infant-toddler child care because the low child-teacher ratios required to support safety and responsive care for this age group come with significantly higher staffing costs. Because of this, many facilities accept a limited number of infants and toddlers or cannot accept them at all. As a community, we need to minimize the financial consequences of serving infants and toddlers so more providers are willing and able to care for children from birth to age two.
  • Why is child care and education important to the Douglas County economy?
    Quality child care and education is a public good, fueling our county's economic engine by helping parents work while building the workforce of the future. It supports parents seeking additional education and training, contributing to higher earnings over an individual's lifetime. With this care crisis, parents must reduce their work hours without affordable child care and education or opt out of the workforce. Child care and education capacity should be essential to the community discussion about economic development and job growth.
  • How was the Early Childhood Community Center for Douglas County established?
    Community Children's Center (CCC) has been integral to the Douglas County community since its inception in 1965. For many years it oversaw the Head Start program at Plymouth Congregational church. However, due to federal and state-level restructuring, Head Start moved to a statewide organization in 2017. Refocusing, CCC settled on its current mission of bringing the gap in available, affordable, and accessible high-quality care for all residents of Douglas County. It brought on Executive Director Kim Polson in 2017 and began repositioning to help address our community's critical need in early childhood care. In June of 2022, Douglas County allocated $3.5 million in American Rescue Act Plan funds towards purchasing a building for the Early Childhood Community Center. These funds allowed Community Children's Center to obtain its current building, 345 Maine Street. This building will enable us to house our Family Resource Center program, Provider Support program, and 140 slots of dedicated high-quality early childhood care for Douglas County.
  • Who will be paying for this?
    In the fall of 2021, the early childhood community center project received its first significant financial commitment from the Kansas Children's Cabinet through a three-year Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Grant $582,000 pilot project award. In 2022, Community Children's Center was one of 14 programs selected to receive funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This 3.6 million dollar grant allowed CCC to purchase the Medical Arts building at 346 Maine and to begin the construction of the Early Childhood Community Center. While there is currently unprecedented support for reimagining the early childhood infrastructure at all levels of government, we need the support of the business community and private donors to make this work. This capital campaign helps us maximize our current investment and leverage it against support from our community to achieve our dream of being a facility poised to tackle the care crisis through multiple innovative paths. Early childhood systems should be a shared investment with benefits across Douglas County.
  • Is there really a need for more early childhood care and education services in Douglas County?
    Yes. While child care and education programs ably serve children in Douglas County, we must do more to meet the demand. Between 2021 and 2023, Douglas County lost six more child care facilities. Only two providers provide overnight, and currently, licensed facilities meet just 63 percent of the potential need. For every infant or toddler spot in a licensed facility, there are ten children to fill that spot. With fewer licensed slots, families need help to meet child care needs. Difficulties range from unintentional competition among families for spaces, a child care plan that is pieced together and needs more consistency, or families using unlicensed child care, which can be unsafe. We are trying to scale up to meet demands, and to do so affordably requires a community investment in our workforce and families with young children.
  • Who will have access to these services and programs?
    We are working to ensure equitable access to high-quality early childhood care and education for every Douglas County child from birth to age five. Quality child care and education positively impact families with young children and significantly benefit children from over-burdened and under-resourced families. In national studies, the achievement gap between different income levels and ethnicities begins before kindergarten, which indicates quality child care and education may go a long way in reducing disparities that can have long-term or permanent effects on future economic stability for families. We want to ensure that every family with young children has access to high-quality services they can afford, with specific strategies in place to support the most vulnerable and marginalized.
  • Why are we doing this?
    Early childhood care and education are essential to help children and families thrive — and the early childhood infrastructure impacts all other systems of support, which became even more evident during the COVID pandemic. ​We are building on the existing child care and education environment in Douglas County to better meet the needs of our community by bringing early childhood supports and services together in one place. We are also working to increase coordination so families have an easier and more rewarding experience creating a comprehensive care and education plan to meet their child's unique needs.
  • Who is doing this?
    A workgroup of early childhood experts and community stakeholders has been doing the foundational work on the early childhood community center concept since June 2021. Community-based social service organizations that already do amazing work in our community are engaged in this process as well. Though we welcome new partners regularly, here are a few of our collaborative partners: Ballard Center Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center Boys and Girls Club Centro Hispano Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas Child Care Licensing/Lawrence Douglas County Public Health City of Lawrence Community Children's Center Douglas County Douglas County Community Foundation Douglas County Early Childhood Trauma Collaborative ECKAN/Head Start East Heights Family Care / LMH Health Family Promise Just Food Kansas Action for Children Kansas Children’s Service League Kansas Department of Health and Environment Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Lawrence Douglas County Health Department Lawrence Public Library Lawrence Public Schools Positive Bright Start Success by 6 University of Kansas Unified Early Childhood Education
  • As an employer, why is a strong early childhood infrastructure good for business?
    A strong early childhood infrastructure is essential to a healthy business environment. Harvard Business Review states: "Even before the pandemic, inadequate child care cost working parents $37 billion a year in lost income and employers $13 billion a year in lost productivity. " It is much more difficult for employees to re-enter the labor force after leaving to take care of children, and turnover is expensive for businesses. Having adequate access to child care helps meet the needs of both employers and employees. Douglas County businesses will be more successful in recruiting businesses and employees with children to locate here because our early childhood infrastructure will be able to meet the needs of their families. (citation)
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