Five years ago, a group of volunteers formed the Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition.

The coalition consists of about 100 educators, child care providers and community members committed to providing quality early childhood education and care for every child in Gothenburg.

In June, the coalition announced the addition of a community coordinator. Nichole Hetz brings 20 years of experience with her to the position, and a big part of her job is to help educate the public on the needs and benefits of early childhood education.

During her first month in her position, Hetz said she has answered several questions for people. She shares some of those questions and answers in a more public forum.

What follows is the first installment of a series featuring commonly asked questions Hetz has received and her responses.

Question: What do early childhood care and education look like in Gothenburg right now?

Early childhood care providers offer care and education in various settings to allow parents to choose what’s best for their children.

There are two licensed child care providers in town, along with three licensed in-home providers, five part-time preschool providers and one after school program.

The variety of providers often allows parents to find the care that fits best for their child and with their work schedule or other considerations. Most of these providers choose to be part of the GECLC.

The goal of the GECLC is to support each other and work together to ensure that every child in Gothenburg from birth to age 5 has the option for high-quality early childhood care and learning opportunities.

Q: What are the benefits of being a licensed daycare provider?

Early childhood educators provide an essential service to the families, and the quality of the care they provide is essential.

Licensed providers work with specialists to assure they are providing the best care possible in the best environment for our little ones.

Getting licensed is not difficult. It helps providers caring for more than four children from different families comply with the law.

Benefits of being a licensed child care provider include:

• Support from DHHS and guidance from a licensing specialist.

• Free coaching and development programs and training.

• Access to grants that provide funds in several child care-related areas.

• Reimbursement for money spent on food purchased for child care

• Being able to accept state aid children and receive payment directly from the state

• Increased visibility by being listed on the DHHS list and being a member of the GECLC

Q: Are all of the young children in Gothenburg in child care?

No, not every child is in child care, nor does every child need care outside of the home.

Census data shows 245 children in Gothenburg under the age of 6 with all available parents working and only 176 licensed child care spots available. That leaves a gap of 69 children who need care without a place to go.

Many of the child care providers in town have a waiting list of up to a year or more and are not able to take any more children at this time.

It is the goal of GECLC that every child in town has the opportunity to learn from birth until the start of kindergarten to be ready for school.

Right now, there are not enough preschool spots for every child.

The GECLC is working to address the capacity issue and to connect every child with the opportunity to experience preschool.