In Nebraska, 77.3 percent of all women with children younger than age 18 are in the workforce, making child care a necessity for many, if not most, families. Yet as the rate of working women with children continues to rise, it far outstrips the availability of quality, affordable child care options, particularly for low-income wage earners.
In North Platte (pop. 24,878), this problem became sorely evident during an economic growth spurt. City leaders realized that increasing the availability of child care would not only be good for working mothers, but for businesses, allowing them to expand and further strengthen their overall workforces throughout North Platte and the surrounding area.
The acute need resulted in the opening of the North Platte Community Day Care Center (NPCDCC), in 1968 that serve 4,000 children as it rotated among churches and other area facilities for more than 30 years. In recent years, NPCDCC Board of Directors began exploring the idea of establishing a permanent location for the center. They felt it was time that the center was housed in its own facility. A new building would enable the center to expand enrollment, especially targeting infant care, as well as extend operating hours and provide services for mildly ill children and infants.
Supporters of a new North Platte Community Day Care Center launched a $1 million fund drive for a new facility. The campaign, called “The Growth Continues,” targeted individuals and businesses owners.
NPCDCC also applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), in the public works category. On July 2, 2002, their campaign received a major boost when Governor Mike Johanns awarded the city with a $321,328 CDBG to help construct the new center. Donations and other corporate grants were applied to construction costs, the purchase and installation of playground equipment, and for program development.
The North Platte Community Day Care Center was built on land leased through and located on the Great Plains Regional Medical Center. Current enrollment is 214 infants and children with 72 percent coming from low- and moderate-income families. Hours of operation were expanded to Monday through Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 11: 30 p.m., and Saturday, 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. While there has not been a demand for the center to be open 24-hours, the facility is equipped and able to extend its hours should the demand arise.
NPCDCC also has expanded its services to include the Lincoln County Head Start Program and the Educational Service Unit #16 Development Preschool—all under one roof. The additional programs are expected to further boost enrollment and appeal to low- and moderate-income families and their children.
Megan Blank, a college student and single parent, couldn’t be more pleased with the care offered through NPCDCC.
“ Excellent child care is difficult to find, especially in rural areas of the Midwest where advanced development is a priority,” Blank said. “At North Platte Community Day Care, my priorities for my child have become their priorities. My child and other children are receiving excellent care and attention that is resulting in development milestones that are meeting and exceeding my expectations.”