Member News

Addressing Rensselaer's Rural Child Care Shortage

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

After a connection was made by Jasper Newton Foundation, Franciscan Health Rensselaer has partnered with Appleseed Childhood Education to address the lack of quality child care options for families in Jasper County. To help meet the crucial community need for more child care seats, Franciscan Health is leasing a building on its Rensselaer hospital campus to Appleseed for the creation of a new high-quality licensed early learning center set to open later this year.

Design work on the building at 1102 East Grace Street in Rensselaer is underway. When renovations are complete, the facility will meet state licensing requirements for providing daytime child care five days a week for around 70 children ages six weeks old through five years old.

“Early child care is essential to our community, crucial to local workforce, and Franciscan Health Rensselaer is proud to partner with Appleseed Childhood Education to make this possible,” said Carlos Vasquez, vice president and chief operating officer at Franciscan Health Rensselaer.

Adam Alson, president of Appleseed said, “Thanks to our new partner, Franciscan Health Rensselaer, our community is another very big step closer to having a financially sustainable high-quality licensed early childhood education center for our kids and families.”

Jasper County-based nonprofit Appleseed Childhood Education was formed in January 2020 to address the lack of licensed early childhood education programs in the area. With only one licensed child care center in the county currently (Growing Patch Learning Center in Remington), the new center in Rensselaer will provide a full-time care option in the geographic center of the county. The new center will double the number of seats available for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children.

The new center in Rensselaer will be operated by Right Steps Child Development Centers, a nonprofit organization based in Lafayette with over 50 years of experience serving families and providers in the area of nationally accredited early childhood development. Currently, Right
 
Steps operates five centers in the Greater Lafayette area, one center in Goodland, and Growing Patch Learning Center in Remington.

Debi Debruyn, Right Steps Child Development president and CEO said, “Right Steps is proud of the solid foundation we have established in Jasper County with the Growing Patch center. We are excited to expand this valuable partnership with Appleseed Childhood Education to manage the day-to-day operations of this new center and bring even more high-quality early childhood education to the area.”

The partnership between Franciscan Health and Appleseed Childhood Education is the first of its kind in Rensselaer and part of a growing effort in the area to bring together community organizations and businesses to address local problems. The area’s community foundation, the Jasper Newton Foundation, connected Franciscan Health Rensselaer and Appleseed.

Brienne Hooker, executive director of the Jasper Newton Foundation said, “This is the kind of transformative partnership that the Jasper Newton Foundation is looking to create–not only for quality child care and education, but for other real needs in our community. Franciscan Health Rensselaer stepped up in a way that honors their mission and honors our community. We can build the community we want to have if we can come together like this.”

While inadequate child care infrastructure is a challenge for communities across Indiana, Appleseed views its partnership with Franciscan Health Rensselaer as a unique opportunity.

“Lack of quality child care options, including care provided by a licensed center, is a problem for most rural communities,” Alson said. “Our community is fortunate to have a partner like Franciscan Health who recognizes our collective needs and is willing to engage in projects toward solving problems.”
 

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