No counties in Indiana provide adequate access to high-quality preschool and child care opportunities, according to a new analysis from nonprofit Early Learning Indiana.
The Closing the Gap report looks at several factors to calculate communities' early learning resources, including how many seats are available, quality of programs, affordability and how many options families have.
The state as a whole earned a score of 60 out of a 100-point scale, which indicates moderate access overall.
Maureen Weber, CEO and president of Early Learning Indiana, said capacity building has outpaced improvements to quality so far.
"We've done a lot of work in recent years to help communities create seats and that's starting to pay some dividends and we see that here," Weber said.
But Weber also points out maintaining enough staffing for existing providers remains an urgent – and growing – challenge as the pandemic continues, which could negatively affect access too.
Although the report says Indiana has moderate access overall, community access varies widely by location. More than 80 percent of Indiana's counties are classified in the report as having inadequate access to high-quality early learning opportunities. Only 14 percent are considered to have moderate access, and 0 percent have adequate access.
Emily Jordan, a preschool coordinator in Scott County, said rural areas often don't have many options. It's even more difficult to provide for families who struggle with transportation challenges or work schedules that don't align with availability of care during certain hours.
"Day care – like from an infancy to age three, age four – is really rare to find here, and if you do find it you're on a waiting list," Jordan said.
Jordan says the report can help communities and businesses better understand what resources are available and how to improve options for families.
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