For many families, child care is a necessity.

Statistics from the nonprofit First Five Nebraska show Nebraska is ranked first in the U.S. for the percentage of single mothers who work outside the home and have children under age 6. The state ranks second in the nation for the percentage of married-couple families with both spouses working outside the home.

Nichole Hetz, coordinator for Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition, said she believes child care providers are an often overlooked, but essential, small business critical for state and community growth.

“Caring for our littlest citizens and providing quality educational experiences from birth through age 5 is important to the entire community,” said Hetz.

She said one question she is frequently asked is from parents of children who are old enough to no longer require child care. They want to know why they should be interested in early childhood education and care in Gothenburg. To them, Hetz said:

Employers, both those already in town and those looking to locate here, rely on their employees having dependable child care to create a stable workforce. These employers create the economic foundation of our community, and the availability of reliable, quality child care helps recruit and retain these businesses.

Studies show the return on investment in quality early childhood care and education is $7-$13 for each $1 invested. That means communities that invest financially in providing quality early childhood care receive $7-$13 back per $1 in savings on special education services, social services, behavioral health services, and correctional services.

While the primary function of any daycare or child care center is to care for and educate the children, quality programs also work with the parents to encourage the continuation of learning and the healthy behaviors the child is taking part in during the day. Parents are given support and provided resources that make a positive difference in their family and help strengthen the community as a whole.

“The bottom line is that providing quality child care in town is the best thing you can do to ensure the quality of life we enjoy in Gothenburg will continue for generations to come. After all, success tomorrow depends on choices today,” Hetz said.

She said several members of the community have been working to provide resources to help address the need.

“The Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition has spent a lot of time and effort visiting with other communities that have addressed this issue successfully, as well as building relationships with statewide organizations that are recognizing the positive steps being taken to provide and improve early childhood care and education in Gothenburg,” Hetz said.

She said the GECLC received grant funding from Nebraska Children and Families Foundation through its Communities for Kids initiative for the past two years.

“In fact, it was NCFF staff that encouraged Gothenburg to apply for a Community Well-Being grant to allow us to positively impact communitywide factors that affect children and families,” Hetz said. “Awarded in June, these funds will support the efforts of the community coordinator and the work of supporting every family in Gothenburg through early childhood education and care for every member of the household.”

Gothenburg is part of a six-city group from Nebraska taking part in the National League of Cities “Building an Early Childhood Nation” initiative, which is providing resources and participation in conversations on a national level about addressing early childhood care and education needs.

“Gothenburg is being recognized on a state and national level as ‘doing something right’ for its youngest citizens and their families,” said Hetz.

To learn more about the work of the GECLC, contact Nichole Hetz, GECLC coordinator, at or 308-529-8784.

Contact Ellen Mortensen at or call 308.536.6499