Rebecca Furaha, speaking through an interpreter, said she migrated to the United States from Congo eight months ago with her seven children. She said raising and caring for her children prepares her for opening a family child care business.
More registered child care would be welcomed in Iowa — where there is a dearth of child care centers and where many women cite the lack of child care as a key hurdle in entering a job market urgently in need of more skilled workers.
The number of child care centers run in people’s homes statewide have declined by 20.4 percent, from 13,500 in 2010 to 10,746 in 2016, according to Committee for Economic Development data.
The state has 529,076 children under age 12 but has only 167,399 child care spaces available, or a deficit of 361,677 spaces, the Iowa Women’s Foundation reported in 2016.
The Cedar Rapids-based Catherine McAuley Center has started rolling out a new program that aims to be part of the solution.
Center officials were awarded a $159,196 federal grant from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to help local refugees who have lived in the United States for five years or less get family child care businesses off the ground.
The center held two informational sessions — on April 14 and 15 — attended by a combined 30 refugees, including some who had not previously been to the center and others who were previous clients.
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Furaha and about 10 other attendees this past Monday, many of whom came to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo and primarily speak French-Swahili, listened attentively and took notes as Catherine McAuley officials presented and interpreted information on how to navigate the necessary paperwork, trainings and inspections to become a state-licensed family child care businesses.
“I always thought about this kind of program, but I was just looking for an opportunity to get enrolled,” said Furaha, adding that she was “very excited” when she learned about the center’s new program.
Albert Kikuni, also from Congo, said he is a parent who recognizes the struggle other parents have in taking care of their children, including where to take them during the day, and wants to help out of concern.
Paula Land, the center’s executive director, said officials were finding “quite an interest” in starting child care businesses among refugees but that many did not understand how to become registered or already were providing child care in unregistered businesses.
“It’s quite a complicated process for anyone, then you start adding in the language and cultural barriers,” she said.
During the refugees’ application process, the Catherine McAuley Center will partner with Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral and offer one-on-one assistance, including interpretation for trainings, which otherwise are offered only in English, said Hannah Miles, the center’s refugee child care program coordinator.
The refugees also could learn how to obtain supplies, including baby gates, books and toys, and provisions of state law with which they must comply, including for how many differently aged children they can watch at a time, she said.
“If (refugees) already are caring for children, this program does two things. It helps them get paid for the children that they watch, either by the parents or ... registered with the (state) Department of Human Services so they can collect child care assistance, and also raise the quality of the care that they’re providing,” Miles said.
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In Linn and Johnson counties, the Catherine McAuley Center’s program is projected to create 28 new child care spaces in its first year and 144 spaces by its third year, she said.
Though the center’s grant funding currently is to support only refugees who have been in the United States for five years or less, Miles said officials plan to request additional funding in the future to expand the program to those that have been in the country for longer.
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