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Bill aiming to make childcare more accessible is on the governor’s desk

Lawmakers pass Senate Bill 2 in hopes of addressing ongoing childcare shortage.
Child care bill.png
Posted at 7:32 PM, Mar 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-06 19:32:54-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Finding childcare in the state of Indiana is hard. There either aren’t enough spots available, or it isn’t affordable. Lawmakers are looking at ways to fix that.

Senate Enrolled Act 2 is now on Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk. It was a priority for lawmakers, as well as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

They surveyed their members, and they say year over year access to childcare continues to be a barrier for them to hire the employees they need.

"The market essentially isn't working the way we want it to,” Jason Bearce, V.P. of Education and Workforce Development for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said. “Childcare is difficult to find and even when it is accessible, it often comes with some affordability challenges.”

According to childcaregap.org, Indiana has a disparity in child care options for over 150,000 kids.

Organizations like The United Way of Central Indiana say they hear about issues finding care all the time. They say a lack of access can create long term issues for families.

"When both kids and adults in a household have access to the resources they need, they have better long term out comes,” Sam Snideman, with the United Way of Central Indiana, said.

Senate Enrolled Act 2 aims to take steps at making childcare more accessible. The legislation will streamline standards, which is something providers say will help them operate for efficiently and get rid of unnecessary red tape.

It will also make care more adaptable for parents in need and allow childcare workers to access child care vouchers.

"Many of us across the industry have really invested in increasing wages but despite that, they still can't access the service,” Chrystal Struben, the CEO of At Your School, said.

At Your School provides before and after school programming for kids. Struben says their staffing levels have remained steady but it can be a challenge.

"Someone might come in, stay a few months, then they leave,” Struben said. “My staff often feels like they are playing Whac-A-Mole when they are hiring new staff."

She feels these changes will take a step in the right direction of solving the long-term problem.

"Providers that serve zero to five will be able to employ 16- and 17-year-old as long as long as they are supervised by an 18-year-old,” Struben said. "I think it will help with their retention significantly."

This bill will also create micro childcare centers as a pilot program. Those centers will serve anywhere from three to 30 kids.

WRTV reached out to FSSA to see where those centers will be. They sent us the following statement:

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration's Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning continues its work to improve access, affordability and quality of child care programs throughout the state. FSSA and OECOSL leaders will work with stakeholders in the coming months to identify areas of need for at least three micro-facilities, and develop a regulatory model and set rules for those child care programs.