JCC program helping locals to open more childcare centers

WATERTOWN — After realizing that Jefferson and Lewis counties were in what was deemed a “childcare desert,” Jefferson Community College and its partners came together to help address the problem in the area.

JCC collaborated with the Watertown Small Business Development Center and Community Action Planning Council to provide the elements of the first North Country Regulated Home Day Care Training Bootcamp offered through the college.

In the pilot program, participants attended childhood development classes, business workshops, and one-on-one mentorships to begin their own home day cares. The program began in June, serving residents from Jefferson and Lewis counties. The eight new entrepreneurs who completed the boot camp were celebrated Thursday night, and they will be enrolled in the college’s Introduction to Early Childhood Development course at no cost this semester.

“There are many reasons why I am so proud of this program,” said Ty A. Stone, JCC president. “First, it came together as a result of a collaboration among many partners. This ceremony is proof that we can achieve great things when we work together to address issues of concern in our community.”

Compared to only 10 home childcare businesses opened in the last three years in Jefferson and Lewis counties, 2021 showed progress, due in part to this home day care training. Two new home-based childcare businesses in Lewis County and 10 in Jefferson County opened in 2021. JCC expects this number will grow as the remaining pilot program participants open their new businesses, with three more pending at this time. According to Ms. Stone, the program has so far expanded available care by about 60 new childcare slots.

Participants received support in completing the New York state registration application and approval process, including completing all required health and safety training.

Esther Rosas received her certificate Thursday. A former bank manager, she started her business, A Mommy’s Daycare, in September and said she loves that she gets to be home with her boys and still work.

“I just see it more of not so much day care, it’s more of family for me — anyone coming in, that’s how I want them to feel. I want them to feel like this is a second home,” she said. “For anyone out there who’s even thinking about it, do it, jump on it because it’s not that it’s an easy process, it definitely has its steps, but if you’re driven and you’re motivated, it’s doable.”

The second cohort of the Childcare Bootcamp program is scheduled to begin in March. Grant funding covers the full cost of the program for participants and is available to residents of Jefferson and Lewis counties. All participants must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

The pre-registration deadline to complete an interest form is March 7.

Information sessions are scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m. Jan. 13 at JCC’s Building E, Room 117; from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at JCC’s Building E, Room 117; and from 10 to 11 a.m. Feb. 5 at the Lewis County Education Center, Room 1. The sessions can also be attended virtually via Zoom.

The program kick-off meeting will be at 6 p.m. March 8. The next cohort has a new streamlined enrollment and orientation process with more incentives and more one-on-one mentorship and professional services provided by a program coordinator, a business adviser and a regulator.

Additionally, JCC is developing an online version of the program on Coursera and is one of only two community colleges in the state utilizing this course delivery method. The online program is expected to launch in the fall.

Those interested in starting an in-home childcare business in the area should contact JCC Director of Community Services Joanna C. Habermann, at jhabermann@sunyjefferson.edu or 315-786-2438.

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