Joni Ernst visits Tipton Adaptive Daycare on 99-county tour

Source: Wilton-Durant Advocate News

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) visited Tipton Adaptive Daycare on Tuesday, Aug. 15 as part of her 99 county tour of Iowa. Owner and director Deborah VanderGaast gave the senator, as well as several other community leaders, a tour of the facilities, explained how she established the business and talked about her goals to offer more services to the community.

Tipton Adaptive Daycare is licensed to have up to 86 children, with 55 currently enrolled. The daycare also employs 14 staff members.

The daycare was transformed from a condemned Moose Lodge building which had been abandoned for five years. Area state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) said when he attended town halls in the building next to the daycare he would see VanderGaast remodeling the building herself.

Teaching skills to children

VanderGaast explained that the daycare accepts children with challenging behaviors, some of which have been removed from other daycares and pre-schools. Her goal is to help “kids that have fallen through the cracks” by offering supportive services beneficial to both the child and their family.

VanderGaast and her staff spend up to 10 hours a day with children teaching them skills. She also educates parents and says as a result the daycare is the “forefront of parent education.”

Ernst asked if there had been positive results with the students in school. “The school staff says it’s wonderful what we’re doing with them,” said VanderGaast.

First, staff members work to identify skills lacking in children, then work with them to build those skills. VanderGaast said that by working on decision-making and developing skills, not molding behavior, they have seen improvements in children with challenging behaviors. One example of how this is achieved is taking the students on field trips, which VanderGaast said helps kids work on impulse control.

In the daycare, children work on problem solving and socialization as well as nutrition, social interaction and education.

Need to feed school-aged children over the summer

VanderGaast said she would like to obtain a commercial kitchen license in order to serve lunch to school kids over the summer. She explained that the summer lunch program used to be at a local church, but as a result of legislation requiring the commercial kitchen license, the program had to be moved to the senior center.

The daycare wants to be able to offer the service as well. Ernst said she agreed with the need to expand the service, “especially in rural communities that maybe don’t have a wide variety of commercial kitchens.”

Creating a Get Well Center

Tipton Adaptive Daycare would like to add a Get Well Center to its facility. This would allow parents to send their sick kids to daycare in order to avoid missing work. “I have not heard of that,” said Ernst about the program.

VanderGaast explained she was inspired to create a space for sick children when a single father of four, working two jobs, had to take off two weeks of work when his children were sick. She said the man ended up having to go back to work and leave his older kids home alone because he couldn’t take any more time off.

Ernst said when looking at providers, these “types of activities are really wonderful.”

‘We need support too’

Cutting cost while maintaining staff to child ratios is nearly impossible explained VanderGaast. Being in a rural area, the daycare has lower prices to fit the needs of its customers. This, along with lack of federal funding, makes it hard for the daycare to make the improvements the community needs.

VanderGaast said while there are programs for tax credits, the waiting list is long and she can’t always wait for the funds stating there is frustration.

“Entrepreneurs that want to invest and open a daycare, we need support too,” said VanderGaast. She gave officials the following two proposals for childcare provider tax credits:

First is to allow a center that accepts child care assistance to receive a non-refundable tax credit for the difference between the child care assistance reimbursement rate and their private pay rate to offset the losses they incur when they accept a child on childcare assistance.

My other proposal would be to expand or duplicate the employer provided tax credit for childcare facilities that have at least 1/3 of the enrolled children that are receiving payment from childcare assistance through the child development block grant. The credit is 25 percent of the qualified childcare facility expenditures plus 10 percent of the qualified childcare resource and referral expenditures paid or incurred during the tax year. The credit is limited to $150,000 per tax year.”

Legislation to help privately owned childcare centers

In her proposal for childcare provider tax credits, VanderGaast wrote:

In rural areas, we have a very limited supply of large employers that might provide childcare for their employees, so the Employer Provided Child Care Tax Credit has no benefit for most of Iowa. We need to support social entrepreneurs who are willing to open facilities to meet the childcare needs of our communities. Childcare is not a profitable industry. Our childcare workers are profoundly underpaid, and staffing ratios make it impossible to increase productivity or cost of care for overburdened families. We need to provide financial assistance and tax incentives for privately owned childcare centers that cannot access grants to offset expenses. Many of these centers fail financially within the first five years, leaving families without vital services so they can work.

She told officials, “This is not just child care, this is care of family.”

“I think you’re right that we do need this,” responded Sen. Ernst.