Meeting a community’s needs through collaboration

For families to thrive, they need access to affordable, high-quality child care in order to work outside the home. But what happens when a community’s child care becomes scarce, unaffordable, or worse—closes down altogether? When parents can’t work due to lack of child care, it can affect businesses and the entire community. That’s why United Way of Northwest Vermont is working to solve this complex issue by working with partners all across the community to build the Alburgh Family Club House in Alburgh, Vermont.

Child care centers are notoriously difficult to keep afloat for a variety of reasons: costs are high, wages are low, and in a strong job market, skilled workers seek opportunities elsewhere, to name a few. Seventy percent of Vermont’s young children have all parents working, yet more than half of these infants and toddlers don’t have access to regulated child care programs, according to a recent story in Seven Days. Vermont lost seven percent of its regulated child care slots in three years—part of a nationwide trend. That’s exactly what was happening in Alburgh, so United Way stepped in to take the lead.

“There is a real shortage of child care and support services in Alburgh,” said Paul Chapman, Community Impact Manager at United Way of Northwest Vermont.

Two years ago, Northwestern Counseling and Support Services (NCSS) in Franklin County recognized that the Alburgh community is in high need, so they applied for a Promise Community Grant through the State of Vermont’s Department for Children and Families with the desired outcome to increase kindergarten readiness in the area. United Way heard the call and stepped in to join a group of community partners to begin work on making quality early child care a reality in Alburgh.

After more than a year of hosting Community Cafes and surveying the community, the Steering Committee determined what was needed: a child care center with a resource room for parents seeking access to resources and community supports. The center, called Alburgh Family Club House, would provide 42 slots to the approximate 90 children in need of services.

With the Promise Community Grant and $10,000 in strategic initiative funding from United Way, the committee was ready to secure a location for the center. Luckily, the school district came forward and offered available space on existing school property for the future center.

“This group of local residents and community partners have been working hard to secure funding to build the facility on existing school property,” said Chapman. “The funds from the Promise Community grant helped determine the need to conduct a feasibility study for the project. United Way has been a supportive partner, providing staffing assistance and funding to help keep the effort moving forward.”

With United Way’s assistance, several experts were consulted to determine budgeting, architecture/contracting needs and project management.

Though additional fundraising is still needed to fill some small funding gaps, Alburgh Family Club House is slated to start construction by 2020.

“This is a great example of a community coming together in a grassroots effort to solve a community issue,” said Chapman.

Past and current partners of the project include: Alburgh Public Library, Let’s Grow Kids, NCSS, Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, Grand Isle Supervisory Union, the Town of Alburgh Select Board and Northwest Regional Planning Board.

Alison DeFisher