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Center's closing will leave some families searching for child care

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ANN MARIE AMES
November 14, 2008
— The moms and dads who still have jobs in January will be grateful, of course.

But some Rock County working families will have something new to worry about: finding child care.


Just in Time for Kids child-care center, 460 Midland Road, Janesville, will close its doors Dec. 31. The center cares for children whose parents work at Lab Safety Supply, Rock County, Lear Corp. and General Motors.


The four employers in 2000 formed the Rock County Child Care Consortium and founded the center.


"I can tell you that the families that are losing their care here are very hard hit," said Kim Sheldon, Just in Time for Kids director. "It's very sad that Janesville is losing such a unique center where these parents have very reasonable child care."


Consortium members do not pay for their employees' child care, but they subsidize the "extras" such as part-time care and drop-off care, said Rock County Assistant Administrator Josh Smith.


Significantly fewer than half of the families use full-time care at the center, Sheldon said. She said about 70 kids come in and out of the center every day.


Creative Children's Learning Center, the nationwide company that owns Just in Time for Kids and KinderCare, chose not to keep the center open without the subsidies, Smith said. He said about 40 county-employed families use the center.


The 2009 Rock County budget approved Wednesday does not include $55,000 that would have been the county's consortium share. That's about what the county has paid for several years, Smith said.


The county's share was 21 percent of the consortium's subsidies in 2008, he said. GM paid 51 percent, Lear paid 15 percent and Lab Safety paid 13 percent.


But the numbers have shifted as GM eliminated jobs. "County kids" made up 53 percent of the center's use in 2008 compared to 29 percent made up of "GM kids."


In 2005, 42 percent of the center's use came from GM; 24 percent came from the county.


Many will sorely miss the flexibility of the subsidized options, said Beth Nichols, a user support specialist with the county's information technology department and a member of the consortium board.


If a regular child-care provider gets sick, all a parent has to do is call Just in Time for Kids and say they needed care, Nichols said.


It's going to be tough for those families to replace that service, said Tami Bliss, a clerk in the Rock County Human Services Department.


County employees got a letter about the change last week, she said.


"Just in Time was very affordable for us," Bliss said. "All the other day cares are so expensive, and you have waiting lists out there it's not going to be all that easy."


Nancy Thieding, director of Community Kids Learning Center, 2230 Center Ave., Janesville, can't speak for all local child care facilities, but she confirmed a waiting list for children younger than 2 at her center.


Because of scheduled layoffs at GM and related businesses, Thieding anticipates a drop in the number of children in day care locally after the end of the year.


Smith doesn't want to get anyone's hopes up, but he said the county is looking into helping its employees find solutions to the problem.


After all, child care is about more than convenience, several parents said.


"It's really rather heartbreaking," Nichols said. "The teachers are my friends. My kids come home and say they love their teachers. Then you have to find somebody else to care for your kids you're comfortable with."


MORE ONLINE

Child Care Resource & Referral of South Central Wisconsin is a private, not for profit agency that provides child-care services and information to families, child-care providers, employers and the community. The agency services Green, Rock and Walworth Counties.


To learn more, visit www.scccrr.com.



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