A $242,700 federal grant recently awarded to Central Oregon Community College will provide funding over four years to alleviate child care costs for low-income students.
The funds will also help launch the Bend-based Little Kits Early Learning & Child Care Center at Oregon State University-Cascades (OSU-Cascades), a year-round program with an integrated teacher-training component.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School grant, or CCAMPIS grant, approved its first year of funding to COCC this month, totaling $60,675, with dollars primarily to be used to subsidize child care costs for student families in need.
Some funding will be set aside to cover staffing and other costs associated with connecting students to academic resources and child care services.
“Child care has been a need in Central Oregon for quite some time, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the demand for high-quality, supportive, nurturing spaces for children,” said Amy Howell, director of COCC’s early childhood education program and a principal in securing the federal grant. “When our students know that their children are in safe, supportive, nurturing spaces, they are able to focus on their other commitments, including their academic and professional goals.”
The CCAMPIS grant arrangement will support the development of the Little Kits Early Learning & Child Care Center, envisioned as a child care option for families of both COCC and OSU-Cascades students and employees, opening new space in a region facing a scarcity of child care facilities.
Integral to the mission of “Little Kits” — which draws its name from the term denoting young bobcats and beavers, animals that serve as the mascots to COCC and OSU, respectively — is how the center will enable students of both schools’ early childhood education programs to gain experience while working on-site.
“The CCAMPIS grant provides further support of our early childhood education students to grow in their professional development through active participation in an outstanding learning environment,” added Howell.
Designed to operate from modular buildings based at the OSU-Cascades campus, the still-in-development Little Kits Center, led by Howell and Kelly Sparks, associate vice president at OSU-Cascades, is expected to serve 75 to 100 families.
While Little Kits classroom space will be prioritized for children of enrolled COCC and OSU-Cascades students, remaining openings will be available to staff members from both schools, followed by families from the greater community.
COCC board member Oliver Tatom, a graduate of the college’s nursing program, made the “child care desert” a primary platform for his board campaign in 2019.
“This is a huge win for our community,” he said. “As a student, I saw the struggles my fellow student parents faced in finding safe and reliable child care for their young kids. We still have no good measure of how many people don’t enroll because they have to stay home with their children, or because they can’t afford child care if they stop working. That doesn’t just deprive those parents of an education and a career, it also deprives their children of a high-quality early education — something not all child care providers offer.”
As a CCAMPIS grantee, COCC will be required to submit an annual performance report documenting the persistence and degree attainment of all participants, to include such information as number of years taken and number of children per student supported by the program.