In Appalachian Kentucky, 19 of 54 counties have fewer than five child care centers, with four counties only having one, and none in Martin County. In Owsley County, the only licensed program is a Head Start, operating from 7:30-2:30, which does not necessarily support working parents. Though Kentucky is one of many states with a child care assistance program, which reimburses child care providers who accept children from low-income families, the program is underfunded, causing a major strain on child care providers who are not being reimbursed enough to cover their services.
For example, at New Beginnings, a childcare center in Hazard, more than half of parents are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and therefore qualify for the federally funded Child Care Assistance Program. New Beginnings is reimbursed $19 for infants of CCAP families, but their real cost is $25 a day, so even though they are at capacity, they barely break even each year. At the same time, centers are facing more regulations and higher insurance.
Every family deserves quality child care, and many Kentuckians simply cannot afford the cost without state or federal assistance. The Appalachian Early Childhood Network is an organization founded in 2019 to help address childcare challenges in Appalachia through support of existing or new childcare centers and through state and federal advocacy. The Network is fiscally sponsored by the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky.
The Network began working through our Business Support program in 2018 to develop an accounting system for the nonprofit. This year, they worked with a consultant through the program to transition their brand from the Eastern Kentucky Childcare Coalition to the Appalachian Early Childhood Network. Their project included developing a new website and outreach materials to support their advocacy work.
They are also planning for a new Business Support project that will support a small network of in-home childcare centers. In-home centers can be more affordable and easier for families to travel to, but they often times require additional support, such as with administration and business functions. Because of these challenges, the state has gone from having 1,200 in-home providers in 2005 to less than 250 today. In Perry County and six of its surrounding counties, there are now just two certified in-home providers. The Mountain Association program will support these in-home centers with business coaching, likely through a partnership with the Kentucky Small Business Development Center, and training for things like bookkeeping and more.
Quality childcare options are required for people to earn a livelihood, and directly tie into Appalachia succeeding into the future. We are proud to support the Appalachian Early Childhood Network’s work to build this critical infrastructure in our region. Visit their new website here to learn more: https://appchildnetwork.org/