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Child care short for essential workers’ families
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Child care short for essential workers’ families

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WATERLOO – Black Hawk County is leading the charge in preparation for a possible shortage in child care.

Leaders with Child Care Resource and Referral and the YMCA have partnered with Waterloo and Cedar Falls public school districts to form the Black Hawk County COVID-19 Child Care Response Initiative.

Angie Widner, CEO of the YMCA in Waterloo, said the initiative is well ahead of the curve in anticipating a spike in child care needs as “essential” businesses continue operating. The plan will support medical personnel and first responders to ensure the local health care system, as well as other essential systems of support, are “strong and able to respond to the emerging issue of COVID-19,” according a press release.

“Our community can be really proud because our community is ahead of planning,” said Widner. “We are in a proactive state right now.”

The steering committee includes Widner, Waterloo Schools Superintendent Jane Lindaman, Cedar Falls Schools Associate Superintendent Pam Zeigler, and Mary Janssen, director of Child Care Resource and Referral, and Sarah Boleyn, child care consultant supervisor with CCR&R. They are anticipating needs, assessing resources and putting plans in place for two response teams.

While still in the planning process, the group is considering which schools and child care centers could be used.

“It’s a multi-pronged approach,” Widner said, “a lot of planning for what we don’t know.”

The YMCA is currently open for child care and operating below capacity. Widner said the committee anticipates a rush in child care needs within the next couple weeks.

“It’s like a moving target, and we can’t fully predict it,” she said.

Their first priority is to serve essential personnel, which includes hospital staff, health care providers, direct care staff, government personnel essential to infrastructure, emergency responders and employees in food supply.

To track updates, go to their Facebook page, @BHCemergencychild care, or contact Janssen at 231-4286.

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