Chester County has it all – almost: a reputable school system, an accredited university, thriving industries, amazing small businesses, beautiful state and city parks and a community of friendly citizens. Every year, new families call Chester County home, but that growth will eventually stop due to the main thing Chester County is lacking: adequate childcare. When Southern Prep was forced to close in December 2020, many parents were left looking for childcare while the employees were left looking for new jobs; moreover, the closure of Southern Prep left Chester County in a “childcare desert.”
Childcare is much more than a “babysitting” service; these facilities provide children with a strong foundation in both social and educational experiences, and it is time we invest in our youngest citizens. It is obvious this community values education based on the longtime success of our public school system and local university, so why are we not placing more value on the foundation of early childhood education?
This “desert” will have a negative impact on our community’s economic growth. Our existing businesses and industries may not be greatly affected just yet, but if our lack of childcare is not addressed, businesses will eventually be at risk of losing and replacing employees who are forced to stay home with their children. New businesses will not want to risk establishing themselves in a community where childcare is so scarce. If this issue is not resolved soon, Chester County will miss out on potential opportunities to grow economically, but most importantly, our families will continue to struggle.
More parents and business leaders must be willing to speak out about the magnitude of this problem and push for equitable childcare within our community. Our county and city are receiving close to $5 million in COVID state and federal funds. Although guidelines for spending have not been fully released yet, the possibility of allocating a portion of those funds to an updated or even new childcare facility must be explored.
We should not settle with being an “almost” county. Let’s find our way out of this desert.
Emma Grace Miller