United Way of West TN talks about new initiative, Bright Start TN focusing on early childcare
JACKSON, TN (WNBJ) - The United Way of West Tennessee hosted a Town Hall Meeting this week for community members to attend to discuss a new initiative called Bright Start TN.
The town hall meeting was an opportunity for the public to share their input and ideas about the development of a regional plan for early care and education.
“Very often childcare can be the most expensive thing on a family’s budget. It typically takes up about 20 percent of a monthly budget,” said Matthew Marshall, the President, and CEO of United Way of West Tennessee.
The Bright Start TN initiative will help children ages 0-8 years old have better access to childcare.
“We are trying to make childcare more affordable and a lot of that comes from providing more centers and more access. In 1998, they were approximately 81 childcare centers here in Madison County. That number is down to 29 today. So, you’ve seen a significant decrease in the number of centers, so we are trying to build a better network that includes providing better access to for families, but also providing better access to providers,” Marshall.
One parent who attended the Town Hall Meeting voices her struggles as a parent when she was trying to find childcare.
“For me personally it was the waiting list. You know whenever seek to find childcare they are already in a position likely that they are employed. So, they have to find a way to balance that until a spot becomes available. Another thing that was difficult when my children were younger for serval years, I was a single parent and so the cost was huge,” said Megan Houston, a parent who attended the meeting.
Houston believes this is the first step in the right direction.
“I think it’s great that they are bringing the community together getting feedback from all different levels from parents to teachers, practitioners, to childcare providers. I think that’s a great start to it," said Houston.
The United Way of West Tennessee wants the conversation on childcare to continue.
They urge the community to visit the United Way of West Tennessee's Town Hall Meeting event Facebook page to comment on your responses to questions about childcare and the Bright Start TN initiative.