Northampton County officials tout plan for no-cost child care center
Northampton County officials celebrated the imminent construction of a no-cost child care center for some county employees by offering a first look Wednesday at the facility.
- Construction will soon begin on a new day care center in a disused wing of the county-run Gracedale nursing home
- The center will offer no-cost child care for employees at Gracedale and other nearby county offices
- Building the new facility will cost more than $560,000; officials tapped funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for the project
The county will convert former resident rooms on the vacant southwest wing of the county-run Gracedale assisted living facility's second floor into classrooms for children.
County Executive Lamont McClure said at a press conference Tuesday the project is a way to serve his administration’s “moral obligation to keep Gracedale county owned, county operated and open; our obligation to tackle the daycare crisis; and our obligation to somehow find a way to retain nurses and to recruit new nursing staff.”
Once renovations are complete, Gracedale, Emergency Operations Center and Forensic Center employees will have access to no-cost child care from 6:30 am to 7 p.m.
The Learning Locomotion, which operates a pair of day care sites in the county, will run the new center once it opens. Northampton County Director of Human Services Director Susan Wandalowski said she expects between 30 and 50 children to enroll in the program at first.
“The joy of this unit is that we have the ability and capacity to expand into additional rooms if the need grows and budgets allow,” she said.
“We thank the federal government to recognize that the largest nursing home under one roof in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania needs to be here for the more than 400 souls whose home this is, who would – and let's be clear – have nowhere else to go,” said McClure.
Construction will begin by the end of July and will take three to four months, Wandalowski said. Although she cautioned that she’s seen similar projects miss their initial deadlines before.
In all, the conversion project is expected to cost more than $560,000, drawn from the county’s share of funding Congress approved in the American Rescue Plan. In all, Northampton County received $30 million from ARP; McClure earmarked half that sum for Gracedale.
When American Rescue Plan money runs out, McClure said, the county will need to cover a “small nominal cost” to keep the center running.
The child care center was conceived as a way to help attract and retain staff amid a labor shortage, which Gracedale has struggled to do since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also meant to help existing employees work more consistently by providing stable child care.
“When a parent has to call in because their children are at home and they have to take off work. So that's one less person we have here to care for our residents,” said Gracedale administrator Jennifer Stewart. “This child care endeavor will help strengthen how great it is to work for Gracedale nursing home.”