Expanding access to childcare is the focus of a new countywide study to address the shortage of early learning programs.

The study, spearheaded by the local childcare task force, will examine the local sector and develop a plan for tackling the issues surrounding program access and the lack of providers, the city announced Monday. The report should be released by early next year.

“The goal is to have a detailed picture of the childcare environment” including the demand for programs, gaps in service, quality and access and ideal costs, said Cheryl Morphew, Crawfordsville/Montgomery County economic development consultant.

Montgomery County loses more than $4.9 million each year due to childcare-related employee absenteeism and turnover, according to a recent study from Indiana University and Early Learning Indiana, a childcare advocacy group.

The task force grew out of Mayor Todd Barton’s workforce roundtable as employers raised concerns about productivity. The committee formed a list of known providers, created networking opportunities for local childcare centers and studied the economic impact of the childcare shortage.

Wabash, Indiana-based Transform Consulting Group was hired to lead the needs assessment and strategic plan. Consultants will do surveys and interviews with parents, stakeholders and focus groups, analyze state and national data and study programs from other rural communities.

The $24,000 study is being funded by the city, Montgomery County Community Foundation, Wabash College, LSC Communications, Pace Dairy, Hoosier Heartland State Bank, Indiana West Advantage, the Crawfordsville/Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery United Fund.
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