Today marks an opportunity to honor the essential role of child care providers in our communities: National Provider Appreciation Day. These child care professionals, teachers and educators of young children are the reason kids get the support they need for early development. To highlight why these providers need to be appreciated and supported in return, we’re featuring the story of one of our collaborations that continued their irreplaceable work for the parents who rely on it.

Provider Impact

During the Whatcom County floods in November 2021, an Opportunity Council program stepped in to support both two displaced childcare providers and multiple families whose childcare needs threatened to be interrupted by the disaster. The Center for Retention & Expansion of Child Care NW (C-RECC NW) is a partnership with the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce that supports childcare providers and, in turn, parents needing childcare and their employers.

After the floods, two licensed family-home childcare providers in the Everson/Nooksack area were displaced when their homes were heavily damaged. C-RECC brokered a reduced-rent deal with a congregation in the area, and the two providers entered an agreement to use part of the church’s space to care for children enrolled in their care.

“If this was not available, I am not sure how our family would have managed,” said an enrolled parent.

Parents remarked how crucial it was that the new location was in the same neighborhood and that alternative childcare options in the area were virtually nonexistent. Many would have lost income from missing work or losing their jobs to care for their kids.

“My girls look at Stephanie and assistant teacher Kayla as family, and so do my husband and I,” said one parent about their provider who relocated to the church. “We are so thankful to have them be the ones we trust our girls with.”

C-RECC helps people in the childcare industry to retain, grow or start their businesses through business technical assistance, coaching, feasibility studies and planning. It helps families secure access to the essential function of childcare, including working parents, which also helps their employers by ensuring that employees can come to work.

For the two providers affected by the flood, C-RECC, along with the Whatcom Community Foundation (WCF) Resiliency Fund and donations of goods, replaced costly materials like storage cabinets and child-sized furniture that had been destroyed. C-RECC helped the providers offset the funds lost when not all families could return to their services full-time or pay the full cost because of flood damages.

“Due to this arrangement, there was minimal childcare interruption, which allowed parents to focus on work and other emergent family needs,” said Kenda Sipma, manager of C-RECC. “Consistent childcare and early learning are vitally important pieces of child development.”