A- A+

Child Care a Priority for Iowans in 2023

Child Care Forum

March 3, 2023

I had the honor of serving on the panel for the Public Policy Issue Forum on Child Care, where discussion centered on how to make child care better and more accessible in Iowa. The panel was led by moderator Teree Caldwell-Johnson, Oakridge Neighborhood Association, and I was joined by the following panelists:

  • Sheri Penney, Iowa Women's Foundation
  • Chris Sackett, BrownWinick Law Firm

Child Care a Critical Component for Workforce Quality of Life

Chris Sackett, who played a role in the $940,000 Child Care Business Incentive Grant awarded to Ruan Transportation, shared the challenges of child care in Downtown Des Moines. Regardless of the nature of one’s company, there is a high probability that employees there are working through child care challenges with the lack of available spots within the Des Moines metro area. Chris hopes to help create more space and child care spots for children of downtown Des Moines workers, but finds difficulty within the logistics, traffic patterns, and space, as well as cost and available greenspace downtown for creation of mandated outside play areas.

By helping employees with child care through grant funds such as the aforementioned Child Care Business Incentive Grant, employers are coming together to create opportunities for employees to have nearby care for their children. Unfortunately, grants are one-time monies, and the lack of child care access requires more than this. However, the funds are creating a willingness among companies to find solutions and collaborate to ease the burden surrounding this challenge.

Iowa Business and Child Care Coalition

Sheri Penney of the Iowa Women’s Foundation shared how she and the nonprofit work with business leaders across the state within the Iowa Business and Child Care Coalition to assist the business community in Iowa. By partnering with the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), community involvement and public-private partnerships are moving the child care issue forward. In the future, the Coalition wants to fund resources and collaborations and hopes to eventually implement tax incentives and tax credits.

According to the Coalition, the wage issue is at the root of the child care crisis in Iowa. As the third lowest paid profession in the state, finding a way to keep payment at a livable wage without making the cost of child care unaffordable is essential.

Recruiting + Retaining Child Care Workers

At Generation Next, we understand the child care crisis is a multifaceted issue, with cost as its main priority. Workers in the child care field do not receive the same wages and benefits that others within other professions receive, even within the same field. Every child care center in the state is a small business with a fixed income and a large overhead. The revenue doesn’t exist to give everything that owners want to give, and that includes the pay that will help recruit and retain employees in an increasingly competitive market.

The tension between revenue generation and expenses leads to considerations in cuts and additional revenue generation (cost of enrollment, etc.) which unfortunately is then passed on to the clients. Child care workers is an important foundational block upon which the economy rests and a basic human need. It is time to treat our essential workers with the respect they deserve, which includes the right mix of salary and benefits to make child care a reasonable job opportunity. Employers must begin to factor in child care within the cost of doing business, and one of the costs of having a happy, productive workforce.

The next Public Policy Issue Forum will be held on Thursday, April 20 at Noon. The event will focus on Workforce Readiness through work-based learning and recruiting from untapped talent pools.

Watch the entire webinar below:


The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Alex Glenn

Alex Glenn is the Director of Human Resources and Social Media for Generation Next.