Community will identify assets, solutions, partnerships, and action steps to address the childcare crisis by using the Community ROCKit approach
Condon, Oregon: August 8, 2022: Today, Gilliam County announced that it has begun a collaborative process with Community ROCKit (the Resource Organizer for Communities Kit) program to address the unsustainable childcare conditions within the county.
Childcare in Gilliam County has been difficult to obtain for years, but has become even more of a pressing issue recently, as demographics have begun to shift, and more young families are seeking care. In addition, nearly 1 in 7 childcare centers in Oregon are facing staffing shortages, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Gilliam County is considered a 'childcare desert' for the Infant/Toddler age group, with regulated childcare slots only available for 21% of children between 0-2 years of age. Preschool numbers are slightly better, with regulated childcare slots available for 36% of children.
According to the Center for American Progress, a childcare desert is defined as a ZIP code with at least 30 children under the age of 5 and either no childcare centers or so few centers that there are more than three times as many children under age 5 as there are spaces in centers. At one of Gilliam County’s three regulated providers, it is not uncommon for families to place their infant on the waitlist and only obtain a slot when that child turns 3 and is eligible for preschool.
Nearly 80% of children under 6 in Gilliam County have both parents – or their single parent - employed, and average childcare costs for a toddler in Gilliam County are more than 26% of a minimum wage salary. Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services defines childcare as affordable if it costs no more than 7% of a family’s income.
“This isn’t just an issue for families with young children. Lack of access to childcare is a barrier to parents finding and keeping employment, as well as to businesses looking to locate or expand here,” said Elizabeth Farrar Campbell, Gilliam County Judge.
“Our focus for this project is childcare for the 0-5 age range, but we are hoping the partnerships we develop and assets we identify can also be expanded later to address the childcare needs of school age children.”
Community ROCKit (the Resource Organizer for Communities Kit) is a locally-powered problem solving model that uses a positive, asset-based method for mapping and organizing local resources in new ways to address problems created or exacerbated by COVID.
“Population growth in Gilliam County, which has one of the smallest populations of any Oregon county, is exciting,” said Christine Bechtel, co-founder of X4 Health, the organization that coordinates the Community ROCKit program.
“But it is tipping a childcare structure that was already teetering off the cliff of sustainability. ROCKit is all about catalyzing the people, capacities, and assets that communities already have and using them in new ways to address local challenges. We’re excited to support Gilliam County in its goal to expand and stabilize childcare access.”
In recognition of childcare availability and affordability issues state-wide, Oregon recently increased childcare subsidies through its Employment Related Day Care Program and approved the Child Care Emergency Response Package, which included funding for recruiting and training childcare providers and grants for expanding existing facilities.
“The additional funding provided by the State should help provide some stability to families and childcare facilities, but the State efforts will not be enough to resolve the crisis in Gilliam County,” said Farrar Campbell. “We are hoping the ROCKit process will help us find local ways to bridge the gap and ensure availability and affordability for all those that need childcare.”
The Community ROCKit meeting series is part of a grant-funded program. It is a 90-day roadmap for asset mapping and community engagement designed to help identify potential partnerships, assets, community capacity, and action steps that can be applied to pressing issues. Gilliam County is the fifth Oregon location to participate in Community ROCKit.
About Gilliam County:
Gilliam County lies in the heart of north-central Oregon. A geographically diverse area, the county boasts elevations near sea-level to over 4,000 feet at the base of the Blue Mountains. The ecology of the land includes the nation’s second longest, free-flowing river (the wild and scenic John Day River), miles of rolling, golden wheat fields, and incredible natural beauty. With a population of approximately 2,000 people, Gilliam County is among the smallest counties in Oregon.
About Community ROCKit:
Community ROCKit is a community-powered problem-solving model, available statewide. ROCKit empowers community leaders to unite across sectors, using local relationships as rocket fuel for creating new solutions to existing problems. ROCKit helps communities map and reorganize valuable existing assets, ensuring those resources are coordinated and connected. ROCKit is powered by X4 Health and funded by a grant from the Morris-Singer Foundation, a family foundation committed to health and a healthy democracy.
For more information about Community ROCKit, visit www.communityrockit.org
Elizabeth Farrar Campbell