Op-Ed: Increasing childcare opportunities helps Kentucky most at-risk families

By Jason Adkins, Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC) CEO

The following op-ed was written by the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative CEO Jason Adkins.

Kristyna had become used to the routine of dropping her kids off at their Nana’s house. She’s a single mom with three children working a part-time job to make ends meet. Her mother, whose job became remote in the pandemic, doesn’t mind being the caregiver while Kristyna works.

She had a system in place, until her mother’s job returned to the office. Kristyna found herself facing a problem shared by parents across America – her childcare ended. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce estimates 45,000 to 50,000 Kentuckians are unable to work without childcare. That changed when she found affordable, accessible childcare through the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC) Head Start programs.

Instead of dropping out of the workforce, Kristyna worked harder to support her family. She increased her hours and eventually found a job that she is passionate about – working with children with disabilities. 

New childcare options for more than 500 children in Jefferson County

Kristyna’s experience is one shared with parents in every community. Affordable, accessible childcare remains a significant barrier to workforce participation. That’s why OVEC is creating more than 500 new childcare “slots” for children from birth to four years old in Jefferson County, to provide much-needed options for hundreds of parents like Kristyna.

Recently, we hosted a ribbon-cutting at OVEC’s newest Head Start center on Dixie Highway in the PRP neighborhood. This $1.8 million investment is the fourth facility we have opened in Jefferson County in the past 16 months. Others include facilities in Newburg, Fairdale and the Russell neighborhoods. In 2023, we will complete renovation on the remaining two sites in the Smoketown and Germantown neighborhoods.

Increasing childcare opportunities helps Kentucky’s most at-risk families. It’s estimated more than 16% of Kentuckians had incomes below the poverty line ($25,926 for a family of four) in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research shows that number is even less, which is why a two-person household qualifying for Head Start has an estimated household income of $18,310 or less. Children with diagnosed disabilities, in foster care, and those who are homeless also are eligible.

30 years of experience supporting children and families

The childcare crisis affects those on the local, state and national level. Families and children in rural and urban communities need help now. With support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), OVEC is making a significant impact on the number and the quality of childcare options throughout northcentral Kentucky. 

Childcare is only the beginning. To better serve our communities, OVEC connects families with medical, dental, mental health, financial planning, housing and other services to support family well-being and to achieve family goals, such as housing stability, continued education and financial security.

We need YOU!

Jason Adkins is the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC) CEO.

Childcare needs in our communities are greatly increasing. OVEC is committed to serving more children, however, we face a challenge shared by employers in the childcare industry – we need more employees.

As the CEO of OVEC, I know we must step up and have equal investment in our students and our staff. That’s why we will pay for our employees to go to college. You can work for OVEC Head Start in any role – from entry level to positions requiring experience – and we will pay full tuition and fees for to work on a degree in education, social work, and nursing. 

Together, we can build a community with more opportunities for affordable and accessible childcare.

You can learn more about OVEC’s enrollment and employment opportunities at www.ovecheadstart.org.

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