Throughout the United Way of Story County (UWSC) LIVE UNITED campaign, this column is highlighting different programs in the community impact areas of education, income and health to give readers an idea of the work being done locally.

A substantial amount invested in UWSC’s impact area of income supports child care sliding fee scales to help give families who need it access to quality child care. Partners like ACPC, ChildServe, Story Time Child Care Center and University Community Childcare offer educational programs, and these investments help make the programs affordable for many families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to utilize the care. Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI) offers a unique program in this area.

LSI’s Crisis Child Care (CCC) program provides free, short-term care to children 0-12 years of age whose family is experiencing a crisis/emergency and lacks adequate child care. Crisis Child Care placements are provided for a maximum of 72 continuous hours in the home of a certified child care provider. CCC is designed to provide a temporary, safe environment for children whose parent(s) is(are) unable to meet their needs due to overwhelming circumstances or an emergency in their lives. CCC is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Families in the community are able to access services by calling a cell phone number answered by program staff or "back-up" providers at all times.

Lisa Heddens, LSI’s service coordinator for early childhood, shared a few situations when crisis child care was helpful.

"We received a call from a mother who was six months pregnant and also caring for her 3-year-old and 9-month-old," says Heddens. "She was involved in a domestic situation and had just recently moved into the shelter. She contacted the crisis care case worker because she was distraught over the situation she was involved in and was seeking to place her child into crisis care. She had no friends or family in the area and desperately needed a break. We were able to identify a provider who could take the children overnight. When they were reunited with their mother, she was in a much better state emotionally and better able to take care of her children."

Heddens also remembers a time when a single father was referred to LSI. His child’s mother was involved in a domestic abuse situation, and he was given temporary custody of his 4-month-old son. He had no regular day care arrangements made for the work week because his son was normally with his mother. The CCC case worker was able to organize a placement for the child while his dad was at work, which gave him time to arrange a permanent day care provider.

Seventy-eight children and 50 families received crisis child care services in Story County last year. United Way of Story County funding ensures the program can serve ages 0-12, where other funding sources restrict services to ages 0-five. The flexibility allows siblings to remain together with one child care provider during times of family crisis.

The CCC program currently utilizes 12 registered child development homes (six in Story County: two in Ames, one in Nevada, one in Roland, and one in Story City). Heddens said they are looking for more.

"We don’t know when a crisis may occur; we may have four placements in one day," Heddens said. "So, we are continually seeking registered daycare homes to provide CCC. Interested registered providers should contact LSI/People Place to learn more about the CCC program and to apply to become a CCC provider. Their commitment to CCC helps families in need."

Donations to United Way of Story County also help families in need. Investing in income programs such as crisis child care can have a big impact in a family or individual’s journey to self-sufficiency.

United Way of Story County is a strategic leader in building county-wide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support, and evaluates effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community.