Leelanau News and Events

$318K Grant Will Help Pilot A Home-Based Model For Infant and Toddler Care in Leelanau

Nov. 10, 2021

Affordable and quality infant childcare is a statewide problem felt acutely here in Leelanau County — one that requires innovative solutions that can't come quickly enough. 

Leelanau Early Childhood Development Commission (LECDC) has received a grant to find some, with a pilot project launching as soon as January 2022.

LECDC announced that it received $318,000 from The Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) to develop a model for assisting five culturally and economically diverse Leelanau County residents who want to establish home-based childcare businesses.

The LECDC was one of five Michigan communities, along with Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Newaygo County, to receive a portion of $1 million in grants from the first round of ECIC’s Child Care Innovation Awards. The fund was designed to re-imagine childcare through common-sense financing and business solutions.

ECIC received 147 applications from communities seeking to fund unique solutions to Michigan’s childcare shortage. More than 50 percent of Michigan counties applied, requesting more than $23 million in support.

Leelanau was one of the first to receive funding.

Says Joan Blough, director of the Child Care Innovation Fund, “Interest in this program was unprecedented. And clearly the need to fund new ideas exists.” Moreover, she notes, “We know accessible, affordable and high-quality childcare is essential to Michigan’s recovery and future economic vitality.”

Here in the county, a collaborative effort led by the LECDC — with key partners Leelanau Children’s Center and the Leelanau Peninsula Economic Foundation — will scale up a model that supports eligible adults to successfully start and operate profitable home-based childcare businesses, in turn providing infant and toddler care for working families.

A team of professionals and volunteers has been established to create a working model to assist the home-based childcare providers with basic business-building skills. In addition, as Heidi Kruse, a member of the LECDC, explained to the Leelanau Ticker when the grant writing was in the works over the summer, “we’d like a way to provide funds for those providers to pay for things like fingerprinting, modifications to their home, all the cumbersome requirements to get licensing. Then we can help provide the quality piece: through mentors and helpers...and a shared services network for things on the back end — like billing — for a small fee.”

LECDC is actively recruiting potential home care providers in the county. Plans are to have resources available as early as January 2022, for aid in accounting, licensing, and even co-op funding for individuals who want to address the severe lack of childcare resources in Leelanau County. In addition, Kruse shared, there is hope to “create a channel for businesses to donate seed money for those starting a home care business in the county.”

“We were very fortunate to be one of the first grantees of ECIC’s Child Care Innovation Awards,” added Patricia Soutas-Little, managing director of the LECDC.

“Leelanau childcare options and facilities have been drastically diminishing in the last few years, and this grant will be critical in providing some solutions for our working families. Our goal is to establish five new fully functioning childcare facilities over the course of next year so infants and toddlers can receive the benefits of high-quality childcare.”

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