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A mom's child care struggle inspires Door County's newest child development center

Posted at 8:36 PM, Jun 01, 2024

DOOR COUNTY (NBC 26) — One mom's struggle to find child care for her two sons inspired her and one of her son's former teachers to open Door County's newest child development center in Sturgeon Bay. Parents and donors got a first look at the facility Saturday.

  • Take a look inside Children First Development Center, opening next week in Door County
  • The facility, allowed to take in just under 70 kids, is opening just a couple of months after two child care centers in Door County closed
  • Including Children First, three child care options now remain in Door County
  • Molly Gary, United Way of Door County Child Care Community Coordinator, says her organization is working to get more in-home child caregivers licensing so they can help with some of the demand
  • Children First has openings for some two, three and four year olds ahead of their opening day
  • The new center accepts state money, known as Wisconsin Shares, for tuition payments and they say they offer scholarships

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

One mom's struggle to find child care helped to create this new facility. We're in Door County, which is classified as a child care desert.

Kayla Lehman got the idea to open a child care facility when she struggled to find care for her two sons. Saturday, after months of preparation, she and other staff gave parents and donors a first look at Children First Development Center in Sturgeon Bay.

"Before we even had a facility locked down and secured we had people emailing to get on a wait list," Lehman, the center's administrator, said.

Children First is opening just a couple months after two child care facilities in Door County closed. With a capacity just under 70 kids, Children First is helping to replace the spots the recently closed day cares left behind.

But the problem is far from solved.

"There are three children for every available child care space," United Way of Door County Child Care Community Coordinator Molly Gary said. She says this is what makes Door County a child care desert.

"We have about 1,000 children in Door County [ages] five and under, and we have about 300 childcare spaces available," Gary said. "So we have a huge demand."

Children First Development Center Director of Programming Lorie Torbeck has been in early childhood education for decades. She says the lack of available child care could have ripple effects on local business.

"Even though we're a tourist area, we still have a baseline of commerce that needs to be done, and if there's no childcare to offer, then people have to look elsewhere," Torbeck said. "They can't even consider coming to our area."

Children First has some spots open for two, three and four year old children. The cost is anywhere from around $230 a week to around $270 a week depending on the child's age and how often they go to the center.

Children First opens on Monday.