Advocates Say Rural Child Care Programs Need Bolstering

Early childhood education advocates discussed the need for additional investment in the state's rural child care programs during a video conference organized by nonprofit Council for a Strong America Ohio Tuesday.

Among those who spoke on the call was Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin, who said people wind up involved with the justice system due to a lack of education, and that begins with early childhood education, including preschool and child care programs. He said that six out of 10 people in prison across the nation did not graduate high school.

"High quality early childhood education can truly put children on a different path," Martin said. "We would much rather invest money early on so they don't end up in jail."

Martin said that public support for child care and preschool programs should be a bipartisan issue, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing some child care providers to close while limiting capacity by requiring social distancing in others.

Also speaking was retired Air Force Major General Paul Sullivan, who echoed Martin's comments, and added that justice-related disqualifiers from military service, including some felonies, should be eliminated in order to allow more people to serve in the military. He added that National Guardsmen often need child care when they are in training or deployed.

Sullivan emphasized that the greatest payoffs of investing in early childhood education programs will not be seen for years to come, but they are significant and well-documented.

"These are not going to be quick payback things," Sullivan said. "We're not immediately going to see a drop in crime, but there is a payback."

Participants in the call also heard from Sandra Bishop, chief research officer for the national Council for a Strong America, who said that rural areas are losing population due to their aging populations, having fewer births than urban regions, and because of people moving away from rural areas.

Bishop said this population loss has led to a loss of health care infrastructure, including hospitals and primary care providers, which has in turn created poor health outcomes on average for rural areas, including heightened levels of childhood obesity, preventable deaths and substance abuse.

But improving access to early childhood education and child care in rural areas could help address some of those issues, Bishop said, because children who attend early education programs are more likely to be ready for kindergarten, to have better health outcomes, and to exhibit better social skills and behavior.

She added that providing child care programs in rural areas might keep working parents living in rural communities, rather than moving somewhere where child care is more accessible.

Looking at the need for child care in Ohio, she said 60 percent of rural Ohioans live in "child care deserts," which are regions where there are three children for every one licensed child care provider spot. She said rural families are more likely to utilize home-based child care services.

Also on the call was Rep. Sarah Carruthers (R-Hamilton) who voiced support for child care. Responding to a question from Hannah News about what policies she would like to see implemented pertaining to child care, she voiced a willingness to listen to interested parties about what policies they need. She added that the biennial budget would be a place to address the issue, but noted the upcoming budget will be "rather lean" due to the ongoing pandemic.

Council for a Strong America Ohio Director Cyndy Rees further thanked Gov. Mike DeWine for his investment in child care, and commented that most funding for child care will come from the federal government because of the pandemic. She said child care providers have already received some funding from last year's CARES Act, and she encouraged the General Assembly to work with Ohio's U.S. senators to ensure the state is getting the resources necessary for continued child care operations.

The national Council for a Strong America recently released a report regarding the scarcity of child care in rural areas that is available to read at www.hannah.com>Important Documents & Notices>Library.


Story originally published in The Hannah Report on January 19, 2021.  Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.