Working in partnership with the Dogwood Health Trust, the YWCA of Asheville is beginning the first phase of planning to expand the Empowerment Childcare Program. Currently, the program provides flexible, free or low-cost childcare services to families in need.

“We are so grateful that Dogwood Health Trust is partnering with us to redefine childcare services,” said YWCA of Asheville and WNC CEO Diana Sierra. “There are nowhere near enough childcare slots available to meet the demand for care in our community. This issue is compounded by too few credentialed teachers to expand programs. Many parents find the cost of care prohibitive, while childcare centers struggle to make ends meet. This has economic impacts that span across all industries and negatively affects both employees and employers.”

Western North Carolina largely remains a childcare desert, where children and families suffer from a lack of access to flexible, affordable care that meets a variety of needs.

The absence of available childcare outside of the traditional 9 to 5 hours makes it even more difficult for working families to get the childcare they desperately need. The pandemic has only worsened the situation, too often forcing parents and caretakers to make the choice between maintaining their jobs to support their families and staying home to care for their children.

This project will build a safe and affordable childcare model that can sustainably address Western North Carolina’s childcare needs and, in particular, serve low- to moderate-income families in Asheville and Buncombe County.

The first step toward enhancing this crucial infrastructure is to assess and develop a plan for meeting the unique childcare needs of 2nd- and 3rd-shift workers. Since the childcare shortage is compounded by a lack of teachers, ECC’s expansion project also will create a pipeline for childcare workers to enter and grow a career within the childcare industry by offering financially supported education opportunities and competitive wages so that they and their families can also thrive in our community.

“At the YWCA, we have always known that safe, affordable, child care are key elements to the wellbeing and success of the entire family, from parents and caretakers to the little ones receiving the care,” said Sierra. “We are proud and enthusiastic to serve our community by reimagining childcare in a way that addresses what our community needs and advances our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.”

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