Clara Barton Medical Center Partners with GPS Kids to Help Alleviate Daycare Shortages

Clara Barton Medical Center President & CEO, Jim Blackwell, poses for a photo with Program Administrator at GPS Kids Club, Debbie Stephens, and her staff in front of the new daycare house recently purchased by Clara Barton Medical Center. Clara Barton’s partnership with GPS Kids will help provide daycare relief for CBMC employees who have been unable to return to work due to the lack of childcare availability.

It’s no secret that there is a huge daycare shortage as 51% of people in the US are living in a ‘childcare desert’ and Barton County is no exception, only meeting a 53% need in the area. Studies show that in-home daycares/childcare centers provide 797 spots for placement, while there are 1,502 children in need. Over the last few years, finding available daycare has been a huge struggle for many Clara Barton employees, forcing some to stay home from work or switch their work schedules entirely, from full-time to part-time. In efforts to help ease some of the stress of finding childcare for their employees, Clara Barton Medical Center recently partnered with GPS Kids Club to open an in-home daycare.

Over the past year, many Clara Barton employees not only struggled to find available daycare for their children but were unsuccessful at even landing on a waiting list, as most daycare waitlists in the area are already full. This issue prompted Jim Blackwell, CEO/President of Clara Barton Medical Center to begin detailed conversations about childcare options with Debbie Stephens, Program Administrator at GPS Kids Club in Hoisington – who also has experience running an in-home daycare.

Prior to conversations with Clara Barton, Stephens and the GPS Kids Club staff had already begun exploring options to alleviate the shortage, but ran into many roadblocks along the way due to the many regulations that must be met in order to open a learning center.

“After several attempts to license the GPS Kids Club current facility for infants through preschool age children, the strict fire codes made this prospect impossible,” said Stephens. “Building a new facility would be the only alternative, which unfortunately would cost in excess of 1.4 million dollars, with an expected timeline of 2-5 years.”

It is a goal of GPS Kids Club to someday open a learning center, but that long-term goal won’t help the current childcare shortage.

So what is the solution you might ask?

“Group daycare homes,” said Stephens. “The licensing requirements for a group daycare home are far less stringent than a daycare center, allowing an expedited process. However, spaces in a group daycare home are limited to 8-12 children, depending on the number of infants in care.”

After many discussions between Clara Barton and GPS, the opportunity arose to purchase a house located just behind the hospital for use as a daycare exclusively for Clara Barton employees. Clara Barton closed on the property in March, and provided the improvements needed to turn the house into a fully functioning daycare.

“We’ve been working with GPS for some time to find an opportunity to provide daycare for our employees at CBMC,” said Blackwell. “The COVID pandemic really highlighted this need and when the right opportunity came along for us to provide an adequate space where Debbie and her crew could help, we jumped on it.”

While Clara Barton owns the house, they will not be running the daycare. It is being leased to GPS Kids who are ultimately in charge of providing childcare services.

“Thanks to the partnership with Clara Barton Medical Center, we are so excited to announce the opening of GPS Kids Care #1,” said Stephens. “This is a group daycare home for infants through preschool aged children that will be specifically reserved for Clara Barton employees.”

One Clara Barton employee utilizing the new daycare is Shauna Redetzke, a Document Imaging Specialist in Clara Barton’s Medical Records Department. While in her second trimester, Redetzke found that daycare openings within the community were extremely limited and found the cost of infant care unfeasible. After having her little girl, she was fortunate to have a family member willing to watch her in the afternoons, allowing her to go back to work but only on a part-time basis.

“Among all the other worries that came with childbirth, I greatly underestimated the matter of being able to return to work full-time,” said Redetzke. “I’ve noticed this quickly became an issue for new parents/employees across the board within our organization. The addition of this daycare has been a huge blessing for our little family, as I am now able to return to work full-time, taking comfort in the fact that our daughter is attending daycare at such a well-structured, caring organization.”

GPS Kids Care #1 is already filled to capacity with a waiting list for Clara Barton employees maintained.

“This venture has really opened the door for us,” said Stephens. “We are hopeful to find additional houses to open home daycares in, allowing us to further alleviate the shortage for our entire community.”

Stephens goal is to open GPS Kids Care #2 by September and at least 1 more by the end of 2021.

“My deepest hope is that this model can be replicated by Debbie and the GPS organization so that other families with childcare needs can have access locally,” said Blackwell. “While we understand the lack of daycare is not yet solved,  we are excited to be able to assist in making great strides in strengthening the daycare availability in our area. We are ecstatic to be partnering with GPS and know they will provide great care for the children of our employees.”

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