Childcare shortage in Stafford County reaches critical point, extension district to help

Trisha Greene , FCS Agent, 21 Central District
St. John News
Trisha Greene is the Family & Consumer Sciences Agent serving the 21 Central Extension District, which includes Stafford County.

With the combining of Edwards and Stafford counties to form 21 Central Extension District, we have found our counties have many things in common. One of these commonalities is the absence of daycare facilities. When parents cannot find dependable childcare, they have a hard time fulfilling work commitments. This, in turn, forces some employees to quit their job to stay home because of lack of daycare, which can affect a families’ income and shorts our workforce of good employees and the trickle-down effect continues. 

In May of 2021, Edwards County was facing a childcare shortage, as is much of rural Central and Western Kansas. With only one licensed daycare in Kinsley, I realized the severity and urgency of the situation and knew something needed to happen — and quickly. 

With help from K-State Research and Extension, we developed a needs assessment that helped us determine that Edwards County was in immediate need of four to six additional daycares. 

We formed the Edwards County child care committee to address the issue. Our goal was to not only increase the number of available daycares in town, but also help interested parties to start and manage their own daycares. The committee soon began raising funds and doing the behind-the-scenes work, we ask that the childcare providers have buy-in, especially when it comes time to promote their daycare so their spots are filled. The committee is there to support with business management questions and help with needed items like toys, cots and various necessities. 

Since forming in April, committee has been able to assist with opening three new daycares and assisting the existing daycare with various financial needs. 

When 21 Central District was formed, one of the first things we discussed was the shortage of available daycares in Stafford County and how we could possibly use a similar model to Edwards County to address the shortage. When discussing this issue with several community entities, we found that everyone was trying to do something to address the childcare shortage — why not work together? Amy Collins, 21 Central District Director and myself are partnering with Stafford County Economic Development, USD 350 and other local businesses to address this need. Our goal is to not only open more daycare facilities, but assist in all three larger communities in Stafford County — Stafford, St. John and Macksville. 

First things first — we need you to fill out the needs assessment — a quick survey. This will help us identify how many childcare providers are needed, how many families will need childcare in the future, potential childcare funding and assistance for the community. The more input we have, the better! 

Stafford county parents, expecting parents, guardians, child caretakers, and community members, what has been your experience finding childcare? We need your input! Please follow this link at kstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6r3zgjeglEppq2G to access the survey. 

Anyone interested in opening a daycare, donating supplies, volunteering time, donating money, or getting involved in any other way, please reach out to Amy Collins at acollins@ksu.edu or Trisha Greene at trishagreene@ksu.edu.