A Child Care Data Solution Helps Solve Iowa’s Workforce Dilemma

When Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds was faced with Iowa’s post-pandemic economic hardships, she gathered a powerhouse team and gave them a mission: devise and evaluate strategies to lead the state back to affluence. Dubbed the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, they identified the missing factor to economic success as access to affordable, top-notch child care. The workforce problem they’d set out to solve was, at its heart, a child care problem.

Enter the Child Care Task Force, a group of handpicked representatives from business, nonprofit and community organizations, child care providers, and local government determined to revolutionize Iowa’s child care and propel the workforce into prosperity.

Upon thorough investigation into Iowa’s child care crisis, the task force determined that the state needed to improve the ways both parents and care providers interface with government agencies that provide assistance and subsidy reimbursement. The existing protocols proved to be an obstacle—one that could be solved through technology.

Connecting providers and agencies to an operational child care data store

We collaborated with Iowa State University to build an operational data store that holds and exchanges child care data from multiple sources, including providers and government agencies. We then constructed an application programming interface (API) connecting provider Child Care Management Systems (CCMSs) on one side and state systems on the other.

The state wanted an all-inclusive solution, functional regardless of which platform providers use. Resultant also quickly saw that not every provider would use a CCMS and built in capabilities for those providers to access the data store through cell phones. These automated interfacing capabilities connect accurate provider data to all relevant state systems, such as the Iowa child care assistance portal, through which the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tracks time and attendance and pays providers serving subsidized families.

Accurate child care data informs targeted solutions

With the new system in place, the state can identify the number of vacant child care slots in comparison to real-time child care demand, getting a clear picture of supply and demand within the child care system. The state can also identify geographical areas where child care supply is misaligned with potential economic need.

With this foundation, the teams built and can continue building data visualizations that identify gaps in child care services, available enrollments, and opportunities for business expansion where services are strong.

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