Karen Cotton remembers trying to find someone to take care of her young children by driving around her neighborhood, searching for a house that looked like it might possibly be a day-care center.
She got lucky.
Now Cotton is working with a group of organizations that want to take the chance out of finding child care in North Idaho. They’re compiling information on the industry into a Web site on the Internet called ChildCareNet. It will be accessible at www.nicon.org.
“The reason for it is to make vital information available to child-care providers … as well as parents,” explained Dean Thie, executive director of Information and Referral, one of the organizations collaborating on the home page.
Information and Referral is a nonprofit organization that aims to connect people in the region with information on health, human services and quality of life issues.
ChildCareNet will include information like tips for providers on dealing with behavior problems, a checklist for parents to use when evaluating day-care centers and schedules of child-care training workshops.
People will be able to access the Child Care Resource Center page for information on how low-income families can obtain reimbursement for part of their child-care costs.
That page also will include a database of providers, which parents can search by city, elementary school and ZIP code.
Once the parents have found some providers, they can call the actual Child Care Resource Center - part of the Panhandle Health District - to learn more about them.
“Maybe they’d want one near the child’s school. Or maybe they’d want one that does a lot of arts and crafts with their child or one that does music with them,” Cotton said.
The page and the center would provide that. And people will be able to look up things like the Family Page, which Chris Gee, director of Mountain States Early Head Start, is working on.
“We’re trying to pull out any information parents might be interested in,” she explained. “It could be reading, it could be nutrition, and we’ll change it from time to time.”
Information and Referral, the University of Idaho, a group of government agencies and two Head Start programs are designing the home page with a $12,000 grant from the state and other government agencies.
After this year, the community and private companies will fund ChildCareNet through sponsorships, said Cotton, community resource development specialist for the Department of Health and Welfare.
The idea started when a group of volunteers working for North Idaho College Head Start last summer decided to test how difficult it was for child-care providers to find information about their field.
They met with frustration.
There’s no listing in the phone book explaining which governing agency has jurisdiction over child care, nor is it easy for license applicants to find out all the information they need to apply.
“There’s a whole bunch of different offices they have to go to,” Cotton explained. “That’s the problem.”
With ChildCareNet, while license applicants still would need to physically visit the appropriate offices, they would know ahead of time what information to bring.
And providers also want the other information ChildCareNet will contain, like training sessions, a calendar of events and ways to access other child care organizations, Cotton said.
If providers knew information about the care they offer was available and if parents knew to ask tough questions when examining a potential provider, it could lead to higher quality care and perhaps self-regulation, Thie said.
Because many providers and parents lack access to the Internet, computers will be publicly accessible soon in the North Idaho offices of Health and Welfare and the Panhandle Health District. Internet access already is available in all public libraries.
Information and Referral is looking for more places to locate computers for public access, such as grocery marts or other places open 24 hours.
ChildCareNet will be available to the public on April 24, National Childcare Professionals Day.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Where to log on Computers will be available to the public soon in the North Idaho offices of Health and Welfare and the Panhandle Health District. Internet access already is available in all public libraries. ChildCareNet will be available to the public on April 24.