The community of Goldendale took a step in its effort to bring licensed childcare options to area residents as the Washington State Department of Commerce awarded $100,000 to the Childcare Committee of Klickitat County to work toward developing a training program for in-home daycare options as well as to develop a childcare facility in the city.

“This is a win, not only for residents of the City of Goldendale, but also for families in the surrounding areas of Klickitat County,” said Leslie Naramore the Executive Director of Washington Gorge Action Programs (WAGAP). “This has been made possible by a partnership founded between Klickitat County, Klickitat Valley Health (KVH), and WAGAP. And we are also being joined by The City of Goldendale, Klickitat Public Utilities District, Goldendale Chamber of Commerce, the Goldendale School District, Goldendale Head Start, and Washington State University Klickitat County Extension Programs, among others, who realize the importance to provide all members of the community access to quality childcare.”

Klickitat County Commissioner Jim Sizemore explained that this effort to bring licensed childcare to Goldendale began over three years ago when the county noticed it was having difficulty filling open positions. In conversation with Randi Post, Human Resources Director at the time, Sizemore learned that, in particular, young applicants were finding the lack of childcare in the Goldendale area was a barrier to accepting employment. Lindsey Garcia, a young parent who worked with Post in the HR Department was interested in bringing childcare to Goldendale. and together with their community partners the group launched the Childcare Committee to look for solutions.

Sizemore said the County has identified the Public Works Building, which they plan to vacate in the near future, as a potential location for a childcare facility. He said Ken Templeton, a project engineer with the Public Works team, has reviewed requirements to convert it and has drawn up a rough plan for what it could take to meet necessary code, estimating renovations at $400,000. Sizemore explained that this award is a planning grant and, “It most importantly means we will have a solid first step in getting the idea to fruition.”

The Childcare Committee will work with WAGAP, which will act as the fiscal sponsor, to administer the grant. Their focus is particularly on families at risk and historically underserved populations, in addition to working families. Families at risk may include those at or below the poverty line or may have a single-parent household. Goldendale poverty is listed at 13.5 percent, which is above both the county at 12.7 percent and state at 10.30 percent, and higher yet is the Yakama Nation at 22 percent, which borders the community and whose residents could also benefit from new childcare options.

Penny Andress, KVH Nurse Care Manager and a co-founder of the committee, noted that development will take time. “Realizing the goal of a facility is still a couple of years away and families are in need of childcare now more than ever, especially with COVID-19 restrictions on in-person attendance at schools, we are excited to begin facilitating a training program that would help bridge the gap between individuals and the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) Division of Licensing to get in-home care options up and running as soon as possible.”

The next step for the committee will be to reconvene and prepare to hire a project lead by October. They will also be outlining steps for developing partner agreements, conducting a feasibility study, and sourcing additional grant funds to begin construction on a new Childcare Center. Anyone interested in learning more about this effort may reach out to Washington Gorge Action Programs at (509) 493-2662 or info@wagap.org.