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New program to lower child care costs for northeast Indiana workers

An infant is playing with a toy that looks like a dog. The toy has a colorful series of columns that correspond with the letters in the alphabet
FILE PHOTO: Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News
The Tri-Share Plus Program will help working families across 11 counties pay for child care — splitting costs evenly between the grant, the family and the employer.

For every 100 job openings in Indiana, there are only 72 workers available to fill those roles — that’s according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Experts say one possible reason is the lack of affordable and accessible child care. Recently, an early childhood coalition was awarded nearly $5 million to fund the launch of a new program designed to cover a portion of child care costs.

The Tri-Share Plus Program will help working families across 11 counties pay for child care — splitting costs evenly between the grant, the family and the employer.

Allie Sutherland directs the Northeast Indiana Early Childhood Coalition, the organization administering the program. She said the program is an important step in helping working families and employers.

“What we're hopeful [for] is that by lowering the cost of care, that allows more families to get back into the workforce," Sutherland said. "Which then really helps them, and their families.”

Sutherland is no stranger to issues with child care access. In 2019, she moved with her family to Fort Wayne to pursue a job opportunity for her husband but struggled to find affordable child care.

“So I landed right in the middle of having to find care and couldn't find it,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland said once she found a job, she had to push her start date back a month due to not being able to find child care for her children.

The average cost of child care for an infant in Indiana is more than $1,000 a month. That’s more than one-fifth of the median family’s income in the state.

“When we help families afford quality care, we know that that sets children up for success in school later, success in life later. That increases our workforce,” Sutherland said.

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According to Sutherland, a portion of the grant will go towards lowering the cost of care for families. The program will connect with interested employers in the area to see how they can implement it. It will also go towards funding "shared service positions."

The grant will also provide administrative support for child care providers to help them create quality care for children and attract, retain and train qualified staff.

The program will be available to families who qualify across 11 counties in Northeast Indiana: Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley.

Sutherland said she hopes the new program will start in September.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Sutherland and her family moved to Indianapolis in 2019. They moved to Fort Wayne. Additional information has also been added for clarification.

Timoria is our labor and employment reporter. Contact her at tcunningham@wfyi.org.