To the editor:

Back in February, The Star published an article covering the Indiana Youth Institute’s 2019 Kids Count Data Book (titled “LaGrange leads state with two-parent families” online) which said DeKalb County “achieved distinction for available, low-cost quality child care,” and that, “the data book appears to show adequate child care spots” in DeKalb County.

At that time I was engaged in a research project on many of these same issues, and those statements seemed surprising, if not contradictory to the data I was seeing. So after some closer looks and conversations with The Star, the Indiana Youth Institute and child care providers in Auburn, I felt the need to disagree with some of The Star’s conclusions.

The Data Book does show DeKalb as one of the top 10 counties for low-cost child care. But it does not show available or adequate child care spots. Per the report, the “Licensed Child Care Center and Home Slots Rate per 100 Children, Ages 0-5,” in DeKalb County is 8.9, which ranks DeKalb 76th best out of 92 counties. That means we’re not near the top, we’re near the bottom. The initial report left out child care ministries, which Auburn has a lot of, so I requested that data from IYI. Including ministries, the rate only improves to 24.0 slots for every 100 kids.

It has to be said that there are likely many young children cared for by unlicensed individuals (neighbors, relatives, etc.) and we don’t know how many because those numbers don’t have to be reported.

On the other hand, based on the very low open slots rates, the fact that many child care providers are at full capacity, and comments from a number of child care and pre-K directors, day care, Pre-K and child care opportunities remain a significant need in our area.

It is a great sign that The Star has, and continues to put a focus on issues affecting children in DeKalb County and northeast Indiana; and I think there was a lot in the coverage that was correct and helpful. As the adage goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and these were some corrections I felt needed to be pointed out if we’re going to have an accurate view of childhood in the community going forward. The data itself and the “County Snapshots” can be seen via the Indiana Youth Institute’s webpage.

Study after study continues to show how important the early, formative years are for physical, educational, social and emotional development. Many of the providers in Auburn have very strong programs. But with limited capacity, they can use our increased support, awareness and collaboration to increase capacity, effectiveness and reach for youth in DeKalb County. If Auburn is going to grow as a great community, giving its young children the best possible start in life is a critical aspect.

Zach Heimach

Auburn

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