Prior to the opening of the Lakewood Community Care Center (LCCC), affordable child care was essentially nonexistent in the rural Ohio city. Almost no financial aid was available for infant/toddler care, and, with the Board of Education's projections of increased enrollment and an increased number of two-parent working families, it was evident that the demand for child care services would exceed the supply. Meanwhile, the Lakewood Department on Aging documented an increase in services to lower income older adults and an increased desire in that same population to participate in meaningful activity, particularly "intergenerational" volunteering. LCCC was consequently created both to address the lack of affordable child care, as well as to increase the opportunities for older adults—in essence making child care a community responsibility.
Serving families with young children in need of care, enrollment in LCCC includes 27 percent from single parent families, 22 percent receiving financial aid, and two children of high school students. LCCC’s unique intergenerational approach to child care increases staff-child ratios, an essential ingredient in quality care, and provides a clear example of the mutually beneficial relationship of the two fastest growing segments of the population of Lakewood. The inclusion of the elder component to the provision of child care services led to adaptations of a standard training program. The more modern theory of positive reinforcement in discipline techniques, for example, was a new concept to many older volunteers and staff. Abuse awareness and prevention workshops, and the requirement to report suspected cases of child abuse, similarly challenged elderly caregivers. This abuse awareness/prevention training provides early intervention for potentially at-risk, preschool population. In addition, the Lakewood Board of Education receives laboratory space for vocational education of high school students intending to pursue a career as day care providers.
LCCC and Lakewood Hospital also enjoy an informal arrangement to further programs benefiting children in need of care. LCCC take particular care to serve hospital employees who, because of irregular work schedules, have difficulty finding child care. The hospital acknowledges this feature as an asset in attracting new employees and stabilizing its current workforce. The near future is bringing talks of a "sick children’s’ clinic" for mildly ill children to ensure the children receive skilled oversight and enable working parents to return to work, thus preventing extended absences from the workplace.
Each year, the LCCC staff, parents, and volunteers are requested to complete an anonymous questionnaire in an effort to evaluate and monitor the program. The 35 LCCC staff members report that the child's needs and parent communications are "fully met" (the highest rating) as part of regular LCC activities. Survey results also indicate that volunteers appreciate their in-service training and enjoy their relationships with the children and staff. Most significantly, LCCC has made child day care affordable to Lakewood parents by offering scholarships to low-income families through private fundraising efforts, successful grant applications, and miscellaneous donations. The result to date is that 18 children receive financial assistance to attend LCCC.