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Hobart child care center among five to receive state grant for innovative early education proposal

Times - 12/2/2019

Dec. 1--HOBART -- A Hobart child care center is one of five to receive grants in Early Learning Indiana's Infant and Toddler Access Challenge.

Tiny Toes Nurturing Childcare will receive $5,000 in the contest funded by the state's Preschool Development Grant to support the recruitment and training of retired volunteers to supplement staff at the Hobart child care center serving children ages 0 to 4 years old.

Yvonne Abel of Tiny Toes said she plans to put the money toward expanding her home-based child care into a larger daycare center where she can implement her winning proposal to helping address access to early childhood care.

The statewide Infant & Toddler Access Challenge is an effort by the Family and Social Services Administration'sOffice of Early Care and Out-of-School Learning to expand access to quality care for children ages 0-3 and stem the number of parents leaving the workforce because of an inability to find adequate child care.

Indiana loses $3 billion each year in economic costs associated with the high demand for quality care, according to Early Learning Indiana.

Class sizes limited to 1-to-4 for infants and 1-to-5 for toddlers based on safety standards drives the cost of early education beyond that of a typical pre-kindergarten classroom, according to Early Learning Indiana, meaning these programs can sometimes cost close to $12,000 a year.

Early Learning Indiana awarded $45,000 in total in its Infant & Toddler Access Challenge.

Abel's plan looks to expand intergenerational relationships through partnering with senior citizens to provide additional support for child supervision. She said she hopes both seniors and infants and toddlers can learn from one another -- with seniors, sometimes isolated from family or friends in retirement, finding purpose in working with children.

"This will help not just the children, but the parents, the childcare providers and the seniors themselves," Abel said. "I'm excited to see how the state is able to implement it."

It's an idea stemming from Abel's own observations of her foster son and his interactions with her mother in her 70s.

"When she's not feeling good, I see how he gravitates to her," Abel said. "They're both getting something out of this exchange."

Early Learning Indiana received 34 submissions and winners were selected based on innovation, feasibility and the ability to recreate programs in local communities.

Winners' recommendations, along with a compilation of best practices, will be made available in a report later this year.

Other winners include the Monroe County Community School Corp., the Fayette County Early Learning Coalition, Cathleen Nine-Altervogt of Carmel, and Meisha Wide and Shellye Suttles of Indianapolis.

Tiny Toes is currently seeking partnerships in the senior community.

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