Joni Helton and Traci Wiegand know there is no money in daycare. They also know quality daycare and preschool programs are necessary to get the community’s “little people” off to a good start in life.
As an added bonus, good daycare and preschool facilities draw people into a community, enticing a growing population and community development.
Helton and Wiegand are currently pouring every ounce of their energy into bringing success to a daycare facility that has struggled since a broken sewer line flooded the facility in 2018.
Helton, president of the Davis County Day Care Board, and Wiegand, daycare director, are hopeful USDA loan officials will once again be sympathetic and grant a loan extension allowing the facility to stay open.
But that is not likely to happen, Helton and Wiegand say, unless daycare families become more accountable and the community steps forward to help.
Several changes have taken place at DC Day Care in the last six months, which, Helton believes, could help turn things around.
“Traci has come in and cleaned the place up, improved organization and structure, added a sense of consistency and instituted a lot of positive changes,” Helton said. “We have a staff that is appreciative that Traci has spent a lot of time, energy, and money to make the daycare run smoother.”
Another positive change is a restructuring of the Board of Directors to involve more community entities. Board members are Darin Garrett, representing the Bloomfield City Council; Alan Yahnke, representing the Davis County Supervisors; Mari Melvin representing ISU Extension; and Rod Lynch, representing the Davis County Community School Board. Other members of the board include Teresa Moss, Amanda Prevo, Deara Fox, and Cassie Miller. Doran Bollman Jr. is also on the board and serves as finance director.
What the daycare is lacking is supportive families and quality workers, “If we don’t get these two things, we’re done,” Helton and Wiegand say.
Lack of supportive families
Helton said over the years certain parents have not been paying their bills and payment was never enforced. Families currently being served by the daycare owe over $11,000 in past-due fees.
“We have to follow through now,” Helton said. “If parents don’t pay, they won’t be allowed to bring their kids. We need to weed out those who don’t pay.
Families in arrears will now have to stay current on their payments plus make payment on what they owe.
Wiegand and Helton both know they will be losing some kids because of that policy and realize things will likely get worse before they get better.
“As parents pay their bills, we’ll thank them for supporting us and let them know we are trying to make things right and save the facility,” Helton said.
The women said the daycare also needs parents to be more responsible when it comes to communicating the days their children will be at daycare.
“We have had people say their children are coming, then they don’t show up,” Helton said. “In the meantime, we may have scheduled another worker to accommodate their children and that money is wasted. Or if they bring their children when the said they weren’t coming, then we have a regulation violation.
“This week a family just showed up that we hadn’t seen since October. We have to hold parents accountable,” Helton said. “That is poor parenting and we can no longer allow it.”
Short on quality staff
Helton and Wiegand both said it is difficult to find quality help. “We have had applicants, but they’re not necessarily what we’re looking for. We need educated people to step up.”
Ideal daycare workers are sometimes those who are retired but want something to do or need the extra income beyond social security, Wiegand commented.
Both women said those people just aren’t applying now, speculating that COVID could be the reason.
Hiring is expensive for daycare centers due to background checks and training. “If employees leave quickly, that is all lost,” Wiegand said.
“I do have to commend the staff members that have been here for so long; they have stood behind the facility,” she commented.
Lack of community support
Helton and Wiegand both feel broad-based community support is needed for daycare programs to succeed in Davis County.
“And by support, we don’t just mean furnishing supplies,” Wiegand said. “We need funding for expenses and training.”
Helton responded, “The school, the hospital, industries — why wouldn’t they all want to be a part of that? Their employees have children at the daycare; perhaps discounts could be worked out for the parents.”
In a quality daycare setting children get the help and support they need to be successful later in life, and Helton feels if quality daycare can be offered in Davis County, families will be more apt to live here, go to school here and help the community grow.
“Other communities get backing from their schools, industries, and hospitals. How can we work together to make this happen?” she asked.
“We are not being supported by anyone right now. It’s about educating people and having them help us come up with answers. We’re not asking for people to throw money at us. We’re asking for their help in coming up with answers to our daycare problems.”
Wiegand and Helton said their eventual dream is to see Wigwam Daycare and Preschool combine with Davis County Daycare and Preschool. This
could allow all preschool students to be in one building — making it easier for teachers to collaborate and provide an equitable education for all preschool students in the county. (Currently, there are approximately 40 three-year-olds who are receiving no pre-school experience.)
“We have to become better,” Helton said. “Think of the positive effects on the elementary and middle schools if we can provide better daycare and preschool services. We need to make good people by investing in our kids at this age.”