Child-care resources continue to be a scarce commodity in Newton. To grow our community, we need to be able to offer quality child-care services to families who wish to relocate to Newton.

The availability of quality and affordable child care also allows qualified parents, many of them women, to remain or re-enter the work force, knowing they have safe places to care for their children.

A variety of steps can be taken to encourage child-care providers to enter the business and to support current providers in the industry.

1) Simplify child-care regulations

The Kansas Legislature has not overhauled child-care regulations in years. The existing regulations are clumsy, repetitive and confusing for providers.

We want to maintain quality standards but make meeting those standards as simple and efficient as possible.

The Kansas Legislature took up standards for school-age children during the last session and, in the words of one child-care inspector, made them worse than they originally had been.

The Legislature may take up revisions of regulations for younger children this year, and any revisions need to not only consider the safety and well-being of children but the needs of providers, as well.

2) Make grant funds available to for-profit providers

Child care is not a high-profit business. For-profit providers make little return on their investments. Many simply join the ranks of providers because of an innate love of children.

Grant providers should not discriminate against for-profit agencies by excluding them from the application process.

The for-profits have to compete against subsidized non-profit centers, which creates an inequity in the marketplace and hurts the sustainability of the for-profit providers, which are desperately needed in our community.

3) Organize a support group for providers in the community

Harvey County used to have a group of child-care providers that met regularly to share advice and resources.

Providers could share information on the best places to find sleeping mats, recipes for healthy snacks or the latest updates on regulation changes.

Child care in Newton does not occur in a vacuum. Providing children with safe, engaging care is important to our entire community’s social structure and economic future.

We encourage our community and state leaders to make child care a priority and assist in the progress of an essential industry in our community.

— Kansan editorial board