Kids playing

Quality care in a stable and nurturing environment allows children to thrive and grow.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the past four weeks, we have taken a look at child care and early education in our community, through the eyes of the Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition. In the final installment of the series, GECLC Coordinator Nichole Hetz explains who is involved in the effort in Gothenburg and what the next steps are toward providing quality care for all of our children.

The Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition has been working on addressing local child care issues for the past decade.

“A group of interested and dedicated community members and educators identified the lack of child care in town and began having conversations among themselves and into the community to find a solution,” said Nichole Hetz, GECLC coordinator.

The GECLC formed in 2018 as a not-for-profit organization with a board of directors made up of educators and community members. Three months ago, the board hired Hetz as GECLC’s community coordinator.

The city of Gothenburg, Gothenburg Public Schools and Gothenburg Health signed an interlocal agreement, recognizing the need to address the issue of early childhood capacity and pledging support for the ongoing work of the coordinator.

“Other community leaders have been vocal in their support of this effort, encouraging the GECLC in its efforts, including the Gothenburg Improvement Co. and the Community Development office. Leaders throughout the community recognize the benefit of this work will be to the residents of Gothenburg, now and long into the future,” said Hetz.

She said the next step for the GECLC is possibly building a child care center in Gothenburg. One of the questions Hetz is often asked is: What benefits are there to me to support a new child care center? Here is her response.

Building a new, quality child care center in Gothenburg will be a benefit to everyone in the community in several ways.

1. The rate of return on investing in early childhood education and care is $7-$13 in savings on social and behavioral services for every $1 spent on quality child care. The money you donate to help build the new center will have a positive impact on the children of Gothenburg and will reduce the number of dollars spent in the future on social, behavioral and educational services for those children who don’t benefit from quality care during their early years.

2. Employers will have a more dependable workforce that can rely on consistent and available care for all children.

3. A new child care center will provide employment opportunities for teachers, teacher aides and part-time help, making it another significant employer in town and helping create a solid financial foundation for the future of Gothenburg.

4. Young children need a safe, stable and nurturing environment in which to grow and thrive. A new child care center in town will partner with the school, the hospital and the city to provide services to the families who use the center to support their important job of raising the next generation of leaders for our community. By locating a family resource center within the child care center’s walls, parents will be equipped to better raise healthy children who will, in turn, create a cycle of community well-being for generations to come.

These benefits combine to paint a picture of a future Gothenburg built on a strong economy with strong families for generations to come.

Hetz said another concern she hears is from people who would like to see families helped, not just children.

She said the GECLC agrees with that philosophy and is committed to addressing communitywide challenges impacting early childhood in Gothenburg, and that goes beyond the time children spend in child care.

“The GECLC, in conjunction with Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, is already working on ways to support parents in their role of raising healthy children,” said Hetz. “The new child care center will incorporate a Healthy Families Center, which will coordinate with public and private service providers to give parents easy access to tools and resources for them and their children. While the list of service providers is not final yet, resources intended to be offered will address physical, emotional, social, and behavioral needs of families, giving just another example of how “all means all” in Gothenburg. Please consider joining us in ‘Growing Together for a Stronger Tomorrow.’”

To learn how you can be involved, or to learn more about the Healthy Families Center, contact Nichole Hetz at GECLC.coordinator@gmail.com or 308-529-8784.

Contact Ellen Mortensen at ellen@gothenburgleader.com or call 308.536.6499