Addressing the Childcare Deserts in RPN’s Southern West Virginia 

photo of training session

Access to childcare is a national challenge for rural communities, and West Virginia is no different. In the RPN’s Southern West Virginia Community Network (SWVCN) counties, 43 percent of children under the age of 6 who need childcare do not have access to it. This affects not only early childhood development and the ability for many families to provide basic needs, but also workforce participation and economic mobility. Access is limited because of affordability, low workforce participation, and limited providers due to a business model that just doesn’t work. 

When the founding partners of the SWVCN met for the first time in November 2022, this issue and it’s wide-spread effects were elevated as a potential priority project. It was evident that childcare access affected three out of four SWVCN priority areas: Infrastructure, Workforce Development, and Economic Development. A few months later, Melissa Colagrosso, CEO of A Place to Grow Children’s Center in Fayette County, reached out to the Community Liaisons, seeking advice in developing a project that could address staff training needs, training provided by the Small Business Development Center and others.  

Since then, the RPN Staff in partnership with the WV Community Development Hub has held two Think Tanks for daycare providers and other stakeholders that are interested in pursuing solutions. Out of those workshops potential solutions were identified and additional partners were brought into the conversation, like the Ohio State Cooperative Development Center. The Ohio State Cooperative Development Center, funded by USDA Rural Development, provides education and cooperative development services to businesses and organizations in Ohio and West Virginia. They will be working with the group over the next year to provide in-depth education and exploratory opportunities to work towards implementing solutions. 

Because of the partnerships and collaboration efforts, Colagrosso has been able to refine her project and has successfully applied for a $50,000 planning grant from the One Foundation to conduct necessary research and project development. With this funding, she hopes to empower local community members, convene and strengthen partnerships, and develop an action plan for piloting a childcare program with a sustainable business plan.  

“This funder connection was a result of the RPN work to put partners and resources together,” said Colagrosso. “I appreciate the work of the liaisons and I am looking forward to further work in the area of cooperatives.”  

The Rural Partners Network will help her, and the project team identify a steering committee, assemble task groups and provide facilitation as needed.  

Community Development Education

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