One Thousand New Child Care Spots — and Counting — Thanks to Central Oregon Partnership

March 5, 2024

COCC and NeighborImpact’s innovative child care business-training program has been so successful, the impact is being felt statewide

An irresistible idea for a ranch-centric child care — where children engage in the care of goats, calves and rabbits, among other hands-on activities — is what encouraged Kaitlin Bachelor to pursue a new career. When she discovered a free community resource designed to launch child care businesses, her dream quickly became a reality.

“I have big plans for my once-little preschool and child care,” says Bachelor, who opened her 10-spot child care in Powell Butte in 2022 with a strong assist from a program at Central Oregon Community College (COCC). “I highly recommend the training to anyone in child care or just starting out. I went in there not knowing much and walked out confident and excited. They set you up for success and turned my ‘what’s ifs’ into ‘you got this.’”

The “you got this” came from the Early Child Care Business Accelerator, a COCC initiative that launched in the fall of 2021 in response to a severe shortage of child care in the state. Spelled out by a 2020 report by researchers at Oregon State University, all of Oregon’s 36 counties were found to be “child care deserts” — meaning just a single spot was open for every three children. In Deschutes County, the desert was deemed particularly dire: Fewer than 25% of children under the age of 5 had access to child care, the report found.

Working closely with the nonprofit NeighborImpact’s Child Care Resources department, COCC’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) set out to design a free training that features financial assistance in grant dollars, with crucial funding coming from the city of Bend, the city of Sisters, Deschutes County and others. Structured as a close-knit, cohort-style program, the course is staged over three months and combines weekly evening class sessions (dinners included) with individual business advising. It’s taught by SBDC staff and incorporates guest presenters from NeighborImpact.

Available in both English and Spanish, the program’s curriculum covers best business practices in managing finances, marketing, licensure, and setting policies and procedures. Completers become licensed-and-ready “home-based” business owners, each receiving a $5,000 grant, plus continued wraparound services, to orient themselves for success. The experience can also be considered as “credit for prior learning” at COCC (totaling four college credits), should the person choose to seek out a degree or certificate in early childhood education.

To date, the program has disbursed some $250,000 in grant support to over 50 newly licensed home-based businesses— from Bend to Redmond to Terrebonne — which translates to more than 500 spots for children in Central Oregon.

The fast results of the fledgling program, which soon garnered statewide media coverage, led to the launch of training for larger child care operations: those that accommodate between 30 and 150 children. This “center accelerator” is offered as a six-month program.

Kaylee Brock took that path. She recently opened a Redmond certified child care center, Growing Giraffes, for infants, toddlers and preschool care. Brock also partnered with the Redmond Proficiency Academy to supplant their closing child care program. “I could not have done it without the COCC class,” she says. “There were so many things I did not know about opening up a center.” Grant support for a center-scale operation can amount to $300,000 per completer.

“Between home-based and day care centers, this means a total of $1.1 million in funding that’s supported our tri-county child care economy,” explains Kathryn Brown, program manager. Brown, who recently received national “Trailblazer” recognition from America’s Small Business Development Center Network for her key part in developing the program, is excited for the accelerator’s latest chapter: statewide rollout.

Beginning last September, and with significant investment from the JTMF Foundation, the program was replicated by Small Business Development Centers and child care resource centers around the state. Brown conducted “train-the-trainer” sessions at Columbia Gorge, Linn-Benton and Lane community colleges to help those places begin offering the curriculum. In all, 32 students completed the first wave of that three-month training, received start-up grants, and ultimately brought 300 new child care spaces to communities like Albany and The Dalles.

The evolution of the program continues — including a recent partnership with Oregon Child Care Alliance that’s adapting the training for Spanish-, Russian- and Somali-speaking business owners in areas like Marion and Multnomah counties. NeighborImpact is channeling more than $8 million in Legislative-created funds into the joint effort with COCC.

Here on the High Desert, COCC offers the three-month Early Child Care Business Accelerator four times a year. Interested individuals can visit or call 541-383-7290 to apply. The impact of the program continues to radiate across the region: helping families locate quality child care, allowing parents to return to the workforce, and bringing new businesses and jobs to the economy. And it’s even changing perspectives.

“What I love most about what I do is what these little kids have taught me,” says Kaitlin Bachelor from her ranch-based child care. “They have taught me patience and to slow down. They have taught me to not sweat the small stuff, to fully enjoy life.”

By Mark Russell Johnson, Staff Writer, COCC Marketing and Public Relations

Child Care Business Accelerator