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Green County Child Care Network (GCCCN) holds community conversation Oct. 26
Brooke Skidmore and Corrine Hendrickson presented at the Oct. 26 Green County Healthy Communities Coalition Mental Health matters Subcommittee and the Green County Child Care Network meeting.

MONROE — On Wednesday, Oct. 26, the Green County Healthy Communities Coalition Mental Health Matters Subcommittee and the Green County Child Care Network (GCCCN) presented about the role that child care and early care and education have in mental health. 

Presenters were Brooke Skidmore and Corrine Hendrickson, who talked about creating a cohesive system with a variety of community stakeholders to meet the needs of young children, who, through no fault of their own have had adverse experiences in their lives. Adverse experiences can be poverty, abuse, neglect, traumatic experiences such as death in the family or even accidents and fires. That even infants, do indeed, have mental health. 

They discussed how relationships between children and important in their lives, including parents, extended family, and their teachers can help children build resilience and recover from their trauma. However, those adults also have to be physically and mentally healthy in order to be able to provide this buffer and the underinvestment in child care creates the opposite. They also talked about how child care is also a workforce development issue that has been in the forefront for several years, but the pandemic made glaringly obvious. 

Eight percent of women still haven’t returned to the workforce since the covid pandemic began because they cannot find child care. With our record low unemployment, there is a need to tap into all of those who are willing and want to work. 

“For me, it was the macro overview that early childhood care and development is not just a parental issue, but more urgently now an employer issue, and ultimately a societal one,” Frank Mixdorf, NAMI Green County, said. “We must learn how to identify and solve problems upstream before they become crippling crises downstream.”

“One of my big takeaways is that there isn’t support in place for children with disabilities,” said Alicia Fishlock, from Utah, as part of the discussion was also about getting enough support in a timely manner for children with disabilities to ensure they are not expelled from child care programs. 

The presentation wrapped up with an overview of grants and fundraising efforts that GCCCN has been working on in partnership with the Green County Development Corporation (GCDC) and United Way of Green County to increase the quantity and quality of child care professionals to better support the children enrolled in programs throughout the county. Child Care Matters is one such program. 

“The lack of affordable and quality childcare is directly impacting the health of our economy, that is why GCDC is excited to continue to partner with different childcare advocates in order to make lasting change in this industry,” GCDC executive director, Olivia Otte, said.

Additionally, the American Rescue Plan’s dramatic increase in funding for the teacher’s wages and operational costs have kept child care businesses open, but those funds expire soon. Skidmore and Hendrickson said it is imperative the state budget includes child care as a budget line item — currently only the minimum required to receive Federal Funds is what is allocated — and that elected officials hear from parents, businesses, community leaders, and residents that child care is important to them and should be invested in to ensure that happens.