|Making Corrections Careers Appealing: Wyoming DOC & Kids' Kampus|
|By Sarah Etter, News Reporter|
Hiring and retaining skilled employees is one issue that continues to plague the field of corrections. Currently, some states are struggling to fill the gap left behind by retiring corrections veterans. Meanwhile, other states face the challenge of luring great employees to remote locations. And the Wyoming Department of Corrections faced yet another challenge: children.
“This is a small area,” says Steve Lindley, Director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections. “We have limited resources and when it comes to late-night shifts, especially at the Wyoming State Penitentiary. It's been hard for parents employed with the DOC to find child care. There are some day care centers in town, but their hours don't cover the shifts these parents work. That's been a challenge for parents and when we saw an opportunity to address it, we thought it was a great chance to help our current employees and hopefully attract some new ones.”
Addressing the issue of child care took initiative and innovative thinking for officials at the DOC. Realizing that the department could not open and operate its own child care center alone, the DOC decided to work in collaboration with the Carbon County Higher Education Center (CCHEC). On July 1st, the DOC and CCHEC will open Kids' Kampus, a day care center that offers subsidized child care for employees of the state penitentiary and students of CCHEC.
“This is really a grass-roots effort to meet a need in our community,” says Joan Evans, Director of the CCHEC. “We're helping people that are pursuing self-sufficiency in either classes or a career at the DOC. These people are just trying to make it. And we want to help them as much as we can.”
Quality Child Care; Quality Career
Officials from both organizations had a specific goal in mind when they created Kids' Kampus that extended beyond just any kind of child care the DOC and CCHEC wanted to offer the best child care possible.
“If these parents know that their children are being well taken care of, they are going to be more productive,” says Evans. “We're going to provide a quality child care center we are going to be thorough and ensure the best care for these kids. We're willing to do this the right way because we just feel strongly that our community needs this.”
Kids' Kampus will hire individuals with plenty of experience, as well as a minimum of an associate's degree in a child care-related field. Kids' Kampus will accept 37 children, including seven infants. In order to address the issue of parents who work late shifts or take evening classes, Kids' Kampus will be open from 5:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m.
“We're running a 24-hour facility here,” says Lindly. “So these hours will certainly help our employees. And hopefully, these options will draw new hires to the area as well. We are already facing challenges when it comes to offering competitive salaries in this area and we wanted to be able to show how much we care about our employees and their families.”
Kids' Kampus will be located at a building on the CCHEC campus close to the penitentiary, and officials are already making plans to expand to a larger building to accommodate the response they expect.
“I think there's no question that our employees are going to appreciate this and take advantage of it,” says Lindly.
Quality Care without Breaking the Bank
While many corrections departments might love the idea of opening a day care facility and the employees that such a service might attract. But one question looms: How much does it cost?
According to Lindly, the annual budget for Kids' Kampus is certainly manageable.
“We anticipate an annual budget of somewhere around $400,000,” says Lindly. “But that amount is broken up. The DOC is committed to paying roughly $120,000 of that cost, and the CCHEC is committed to pay the same amount. The remaining will be supplied in the form of sliding scale payments made by the parents [in relation to their income].”
Lindly predicts that the average employee will pay anywhere from 50 cents to two dollars per hour of child care. According to Evans, however, the cost is just one of many benefits for parents. Another major benefit is that the center is designed to promote the education of children while they are there.
“We are going to provide an educational environment,” says Evans. “This center is being designed to promote the safety and education of these children. We are going to ensure that we have the expertise needed to help the children enrolled at Kids' Kampus.”
The pairing of the DOC and the CCHEC is earning raves from everyone involved, and according to Lindly, it was an obvious match for both organizations.
“Everyone at the CCHEC is impressive the staff, the faculty, the students,” says Lindly. “They have expressed such an interest in our needs, and they are dedicated to providing this service with their students in mind, too. This all sort of fell together perfectly sure, it certainly took planning and coordination, but it's been a great match for us.”
The CCHEC is also pleased with the new partnership.
“From what I've seen, the DOC is excited to be a part of something really progressive and the chance to help out their employees as much as possible,” says Evans. “It's been a pleasure to work with the DOC to provide child care we're looking forward to a great opening as well.”