Feb 15, 2024 - News

Polk County's affordable day care program struggles to enroll kids

Inside daycare program

The inside of Link & Learn. Photo: Courtesy of Link & Learn

A day care pilot program focused on providing affordable child care to Polk County health care and service workers is struggling with low enrollment.

Why it matters: Iowa has a shortage of 350,000 affordable child care spots, per a 2023 post by the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.

  • The day care program is meant to help alleviate this, but is at risk of shutting down if they don't enroll more kids.

How it started: Polk County allocated $600K to West Des Moines-based nonprofit Link Associates in 2021 to launch an on-site, low-cost day care.

State of play: Link Associates helps people with intellectual disabilities.

  • The day care facility, "Link & Learn," opened in October 2023 and offers Link Associates employees a discounted rate.
  • Reduced rates are also given to service workers in Polk County ranging from medical employees to Goodwill staff.
  • Full-priced day care is also available and state assistance is accepted.

Zoom in: Day care administrator Carissa Williams tells Axios that despite being a new, secure facility that can accommodate 24 toddlers and eight infants, only seven kids are enrolled.

  • Parents often rely on word of mouth when deciding on a day care, Williams says.
  • But because Link & Learn is new and opened in October — a more unusual time for enrollments — that may be contributing to the enrollment struggles.

What's next: They've further lowered their rates and are encouraging interested families to learn more about their program.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more