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.

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