Partnering for Child Care Solutions

June 7, 2019

Exceptional Persons, Inc. has impacted lives for over 60 years. The organization is an important community partner in serving people with disabilities. However, EPI’s children and family service department is growing, primarily working with child care providers to improve the quality of care, and now running a child care center of its own.

The Hawkeye Child Development Center is a collaboration between EPI and Hawkeye Community College. EPI staffs and manages the center which is located in the Hawkeye Community College Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center in downtown Waterloo. The partnership is an effort to provide child care for EPI staff, Hawkeye Community College staff and students, and community members. It is also part of a larger effort to address the child care crisis in Black Hawk County.

“In the last five years, it’s been determined that Iowa is in a true child care crisis. We’ve seen a huge group of people leave the field,” said Mary Janssen, Children and Family Services Director at EPI. “We know that this crisis is affecting so many parts of our community. It’s obviously affecting our workforce because employers need employees that can come to work. We also know that it’s just generally a hardship for families if they’re expecting children or are working daily. They need dependable quality child care.”

In 2018, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa announced a $10,000 mission fulfillment grant to support this new Cedar Valley child care option.

“The funding actually provided our center with training dollars to get our staff where they needed to be for day one, but also furnishings for the kids,” said Mary. “We purchased cribs, first aid kits, and equipment for the classrooms so when those kids walked in, those rooms were ready.”

The Community Foundation and EPI are on the front lines of addressing the child care crisis as lead members of the Black Hawk County Child Care Coalition.

The coalition has been a dream come true,” said Mary. “EPI has always tried to elevate the child care conversation, and once the coalition really formed, and once President & CEO, Kaye Englin, and the Community Foundation became involved, I feel like our partnerships just elevated it even more.

"I think that receiving the startup dollars from the Community Foundation was really showing their true investment in this project. The board and the staff know the true crisis so they really wanted to invest in this project, but also that they believed our two agencies were going to make this project work."

Mary Janssen