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Business Development Program Helps Expand Childcare in Central Oregon

Childcare provider Damaris Elix knows firsthand how difficult it is to find daycare in central Oregon.

After moving to the US from Guatemala in 2013, Elix struggled to care for her son with cerebral palsy. Her good programs were far from her home in Bend, had long waiting lists, and were too expensive, she said. Unable to find a place, Erics stayed home until her son entered kindergarten.

When her next child was born, Erics also stopped working to stay home with him.

“I didn’t have a good experience at first,” Elix said in an interview in Spanish.

Today, Elix is ​​one of several new child care providers launched in Central Oregon with the help of a program created by the Central Oregon Community College Small Business Development Center and the non-profit NeighborImpact. This idea has multiple goals. We help start up local small businesses by preparing adults to run successful childcare businesses, and we support working families by offering more childcare slots in areas with childcare needs.

Since accepting its first cohort in October, the Early Child Education Business Accelerator has helped 32 aspiring child care providers develop business plans and learn how to obtain state approval. Sixteen participants received her $5,000 startup grant, and he has five more grants pending. Central Oregon Community College estimates that the accelerator has opened 100 new childcare centers so far, and organizers hope to reach the goal of 250 set at the beginning of the project by the end of the year. .

Elix started her childcare business this summer using start-up funds provided by the program. She calls it Dami’s house.

“The resources and support are there,” says Elix. “You get paid just to take classes, and more than that. They are always there to help you.”

Damaris Eriks gives her youngest son a high five at his home in Bend. Elix completed a new accelerator program in Spanish and he is one of nine new child care providers he has.Courtesy Damaris Eriks

Decrease in childcare at home

According to Oregon State University’s latest 2020 report, all 36 counties in Oregon are considered “child care deserts” for infants. About 70% of counties have similar lack of access for preschoolers.

According to the report, in Deschutes County, where Central Oregon Community College operates, only 22 percent of children ages 0-5 had access to regulated childcare.

Small in-home childcare providers are a significant part of that situation, said study co-author Megan Pratt, but they are in sharp decline. Between 1999 and 2020, Oregon lost 32,000 small family childcare placements, outpacing the growth of larger facilities and an overall decline in childcare over the past two decades.

In-home providers are more likely to meet the needs of low-income families, offer weekend and evening care, and offer more culturally-specific services than larger childcare centers, Pratt said. More than a third of small home care providers are people of color and 35% speak a primary language other than English.

“They serve a very important purpose, but their numbers are declining,” Pratt said.

The pandemic has sparked new sales in the childcare world, and many facilities that were temporarily closed due to COVID-19 were unsure if they would reopen, Pratt said. Count the number of places. Pratt expects to see a modest decline, with a greater impact on small, home-based programs and programs that rely heavily on privately funded tuition rather than public funding. Improving Preschool Education Family and home-based programs were the least likely to be reported to receive public funding during the pandemic, according to a study by The Partnership for.

On the positive side, Pratt said the pandemic seems to have “increased the focus and urgency” on strengthening the childcare industry.

The White House reported last month that states have allocated more than $2 billion to the Federal Pandemic Relief Fund to strengthen the childcare workforce. Deschutes County highlighted efforts to train new providers and expand childcare facilities in a federal report.

early childhood education accelerator

More than 30 Central Oregon residents have completed the Early Childhood Education Business Accelerator since its launch last fall. This accelerator helps prospective child care providers open their own businesses and provides a $5,000 grant to do so. Photo credit: Instructor Lisa Tynan.

government pitch in

Ken Bechart, director of the Small Business Development Center, said the city of Bend approached Central Oregon Community College last year with the idea of ​​supporting the home-based childcare business. The university partnered with his nonprofit NeighborImpact to launch an accelerator, and from both the City of Bend and Deschutes County he used $125,000, along with some funding from the City of Sisters and the Small Business Development Network.

Organizers recruit students through community college classes, NeighborImpact, and social media. The program is free, but students can pay state fees to obtain a business license. According to NeighborImpact’s Denise Hudson, a course finisher is eligible to earn her four credits of college and should apply for a Partners in Practice scholarship to continue her studies in early education at Central Oregon Community College or Oregon State University. You can also

The state has no educational requirements for registered family caregivers who can care for up to 10 children at home, but Hudson said that large certified family caregivers have more rigorous education or experience. must meet the criteria of

A cohort of 15 new or aspiring providers will spend three months taking accelerator classes at Central Oregon Community College and working with advisors to develop a business plan. The class will teach you how to set up a bank account for your business, how to register with the state, how to file your taxes, and how to set up a viable business model.

Upon completion of the program, participants will receive a $5,000 start-up fund, open a childcare facility, and ongoing support from staff who check in even after the business takes off.

Anna Spengler, who took an accelerator class last fall, said the instructors encouraged participants to identify ways their business could offer something unique, split their budgets, and set realistic tuition fees. said that it is urging them to do so.

“I’m the type of person who keeps a lot of receipts in my shoebox,” Spengler said. “I thought about how to design and decorate this place and the rhythm of the day. …I didn’t think more about the economic side of it.

NeighborImpact’s Karen Prow said the program helps providers plan for sustainable businesses and, as a result, helps prevent children from having to move from one daycare to the next. said.

According to a 2021 report from Portland State University and Oregon State University, childcare wages are “significantly lower” than those of occupations requiring a similar degree of education and experience. Accelerator instructor Lisa Tynan said she found that when she budgeted with providers, they often paid themselves less than minimum wage. She was paying only $4 an hour.

Tynan said instructors go to great lengths to ensure that participants can pay themselves above minimum wage based on field experience and the quality of the program. Participants typically need close to $20 to $30 an hour to meet their living needs, she said.

The fees providers charge parents depend on the cost of a particular program, Tynan said. His Wonderschool, a day care portal, shows that Bend’s in-home providers charge a wide range, starting around $200 to $400 a month and up to $1,500 to $1,920.

Hudson said some early participants encountered unexpected barriers that prevented them from exiting the program or obtaining license approval. For example, homeowners associations or landlords did not allow participants to have childcare at home. Or your home did not meet the requirements set by the state.

Organizers now require participants to take an introductory course to identify initial challenges before starting the formal program.

“If they start going through this and everyone is excited and then they realize, ‘Oh, I can’t do this in my house. My landlord won’t let me.’ says Hudson. He said.

Landlord approval is one of the biggest challenges future childcare providers face, Plow said. There are plenty of other options in the housing market.

The accelerator operates in both English and Spanish, and organizers say there is equal demand for both. Of the 32 participants, 9 of them completed the Spanish course. Elix learned about Accelerator through a post on Facebook.

Damaris Erics

Damaris Elix of Bend, 16 people in central Oregon who received funding to open their own child care center through Business Accelerator, founded by Central Oregon Community College and the nonprofit Naver Impact. one of the residents of Photo courtesy of Damaris Eriks.

Elix had a teaching certificate in Guatemala and was teaching Spanish classes in the Bend area, but was apprehensive about starting a formal business. The class taught Erics more about insurance and liability, she said. She learned which forms had to be filled out and the formal rules for running a daycare. This program gave her the confidence to take the plunge.

Elix said program organizers are helping the local Hispanic community by offering classes in Spanish.

“From my point of view, they are supporting our better future,” said Elix. “With your own business, you can earn a higher income, which gives you better opportunities in life. That is the value[the program]offers: they help people grow. I hope to

Elix said Dami’s House currently has two students, but she expects that number to increase after summer break. When school starts, she provides after-school care to help English speakers learn Spanish and children from Spanish-speaking homes to strengthen their skills.

Elix is ​​licensed to care for up to 10 children at home. If she reaches that limit and wants to expand in the future, Elix knows where to turn for help.

Central Oregon Community College and NeighborImpact plan to build the program with help from the $8.2 million the state legislature gave NeighborImpact, Prow said. The plan will help another 60 child care providers in downtown Oregon, each of which will allow him to get a $5,000 grant, and a $5,000 grant for large child care centers. It is intended to develop concurrent accelerators.

Central Oregon Community College is working on a program template that other Oregon community colleges and local universities can adopt to help their communities, Bechart said.

But Accelerator alone won’t solve Oregon’s childcare needs, Bechart said.

“What we’re doing is not solving world hunger, it’s just providing lunch to a few people,” he said. It’s just a small step towards something that needs to be discussed and invested in more than what we are currently doing.”

This article was provided through a partnership between The Oregonian/OregonLive and Report for America. Learn how you can support this important work.

Sami Edge covers higher education for The Oregonian. Her feedback and story ideas