Knox County is joining six other counties in Southwest Indiana in an effort to better understand possible gaps in the availability of childcare within the region.

Chris Pfaff, CEO of Knox County Indiana Economic Development, says though the current information is anecdotal, he has heard from more than one local business that childcare availability is often an issue for employees.

“I would describe it similar to how we decided to get into studying housing — we think there’s an issue, but we don’t have any data yet to show what it means,” said Pfaff.

The issue, especially since the onset of the pandemic, has arisen often enough that some companies have begun to consider solving the problem themselves to decrease childcare-related absenteeism among employees.

“When I begin to hear those comments from more than one company, I think it means there’s an issue and we should check into it,” Pfaff said.

Until very recently, he envisioned studying potential issues in the local supply and demand of childcare “further down the road,” but when Pfaff learned other nearby counties were collaborating in an effort to study the same issue, it made sense to join them.

“I thought if we were going to do this in the next six months or so anyway, it makes sense to do it now, regionally.

“There is efficiency in numbers, and it would have been more expensive to do it alone versus working with SIG,” he explained.

The Southern Indiana Gateway (SIG) region is comprised of Crawford, Dubois, Orange, Perry, Pike and Spencer counties, and earned the designation of a 21st Century Talent Region in 2021, a state initiative that encourages regions to build and implement a plan to increase educational attainment, raise household income and grow its population.

Pfaff said, recognizing the need for more data on childcare availability, Knox County asked to partner with the region.

The group, which includes each county’s local economic development organization and chamber of commerce, says it wants to better understand the regional childcare landscape, particularly in terms of meeting the needs of working parents.

Already, the region has partnered with Transform Consulting Group in an effort to collect accurate and up-to-date information on the number and types of childcare seats available within each county, specifically focusing on licensed daycares.

Lack of access to childcare is being recognized as a critical issue impacting workforce participation and attraction of new talent, especially in rural communities, which are often underserved in terms of options for licensed care centers.

That lack of access comes with a hefty price tag.
Copyright ©2022 Vincennes Sun Commercial