Council Bluffs childcare providers collaborate, offer free childcare service to essential workers

Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 22, 2020

COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA. (KMTV) — As Coronavirus is keeping most students away from school, many parents are in need of child care.

Pottawattamie County child care providers are collaborating with county agencies to open safe spaces for the children of essential workers.

Collaborators tell 3 News Now this initiative is all about lifting the burden of first-responders, nurses and other essential workers who are already working through Covid-19 crisis.

"It eases their mind, and that way they can go about taking care of our community and keeping us safe and healthy," CHI Health's Jennifer Smith said.

County leaders, as well as those in education are doing their part to help the people, who are helping the community.

"So many of them have said, I don't know what to do, do I need to take a leave of absence?' Smith said. "So we're being able to offer this partnership with the community and with the school system, to be able to help our nurses so we can keep the community safe and healthy."

"Closing schools was a necessary step to mitigate the spread and we really risk losing that benefit of closing schools if our health care workers, and first-responders aren't at work," Council Bluffs Schools Foundation Executive Director Chris LaFerla said.

The Council Bluffs Schools Foundation established an emergency childcare collaborative, providing free childcare for essential workers, like nurses, doctors, police officers, firemen, and others.

LaFerla says the state-licensed childcare providers that are participating will share staff and locations to initially serve up to 60 children.

"We'll be working very hard to make sure that we have enough space sites to keep the groups to 10 or less," LaFerla said. "We'll be implementing more and additional hand washing, cleaning and sanitizing measures as well as temperature checks multiple times a day."

The Collaborative will ask identified employers to notify their staff members who need to work, but do not have childcare during the day.

LeFerla tells 3 News Now employees will enroll in the program through their employers HR department.

Through the partnership with the Council Bluffs School District, children, ages 4-12 will be served by Kids & Company at Longfellow Elementary School.

They'll provide childcare Monday-Friday from 6:15 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Several other childcare providers will serve infants and toddlers at their sites.

The sites include Shea’s Learning Days, Jumping Monkeys, and Children’s Square.

Carol Wood is CEO and President of Children's Square.

She tells 3 News Now, her organization has been helping families with childcare since 1969.

"They [parents] need to be able to focus on their jobs when they're there," Wood said. "So to have a place that has been in business and is used to doing this, has the qualified personnel, has good practices in place, and has confidence of the community is really important. "

Wood went on to say, "they [parents] can bring their child here, leave them here and know that they can contact us, stop by any time and we will be responsive to their needs. We individualize the care of the children."

Healthcare staff, like Tara Slevin who works for Jennie Edmundson Hospital, say they're proud of the new partnership.

"Our staff are stressed at work and you know they've got very critical jobs working with some of the most vulnerable," she said. "They also have their families at home that they're worried about and you can literally see people's shoulders drop, knowing that there was a group of childcare agencies, community partners working together in order to alleviate some stress that their kids would be in safe space."

You can find more information about the initiative at,