‘The way it ought to be done’: Gov. Laura Kelly lauds Community Children’s Center at groundbreaking for child care support hub

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Gov. Laura Kelly speaks during a groundbreaking for the Community Children's Center's Early Childhood Community Center Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.

If the level of state funding support is any indication, investing in Douglas County’s Community Children’s Center and its Early Childhood Community Center project is a high priority for Gov. Laura Kelly.

Kelly confirmed as much Thursday when she joined leaders with the nonprofit at a groundbreaking ceremony for the project, which will eventually convert 346 Maine St. — formerly the Medical Arts Building & Pharmacy — into a child care support hub providing not only daytime, overnight and weekend child care around the clock but also resources like a support network for early childhood professionals and a family resource center.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Gov. Laura Kelly, Community Children’s Center Executive Director Kim Polson and others turn the first ceremonial shovels of dirt at the future site of the agency’s Early Childhood Community Center.

“Improving the quality and quantity of child care services across Kansas is one of my top priorities because it doesn’t just benefit families,” Kelly said Thursday. “Providing quality child care is also a vital component for workforce development and economic growth.”

Kim Polson, the executive director of the Community Children’s Center, said at the event that developing the project brought many stakeholders to the table, some of whom hadn’t been invited to conversations about what early childhood care should look like before.

That included not just government leaders with Douglas County and the City of Lawrence but also the Lawrence chamber of commerce and other nonprofit agencies that Polson said could be key contributors in helping the Community Children’s Center provide wrap-around supports for families. The overwhelming consensus, she said, was that there’s a need to strengthen the entire early childhood system and workforce.

“When we can care for children in a high-quality facility, we want to make sure we’re going home to an environment that is equally warm and welcoming and work together with families to create that positive experience,” Polson said.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Community Children’s Center Executive Director Kim Polson guides Gov. Laura Kelly on a tour through the building space that will be renovated into the agency’s Early Childhood Community Center.

That resulted in a significant investment in the project from the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, which awarded the Community Children’s Center nearly $5 million from its Capital Projects Fund Accelerator. The Douglas County Commission made a similar investment last year when it allocated just over $3.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the project.

Kelly said that’s for good reason — despite what she called “unprecedented levels” of economic growth and job creation in Kansas, she said not everyone who wants to take advantage of those opportunities is able to because of a dearth of affordable child care options. Kelly said that’s a nonpartisan issue affecting all Kansans, and addressing it benefits everyone in the state.

“I am grateful to everyone in Douglas County who’s had a hand in making this facility a reality,” Kelly said. “This is a great day for Lawrence and a great day for Kansas, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a part of it.”

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The Community Children’s Center unveiled a new logo at a groundbreaking ceremony for its Early Childhood Community Center project Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.

Kelly told the Journal-World that projects like this one that are deliberate about building in public-private partnerships can create a substantial community benefit as a result. She said businesses stand to gain much from a facility like this, and it’s appropriate for them to have some “skin in the game.”

It’s a model that Kelly said can — and should — set an example for the rest of the state. She said it’s important to advance projects like this one that are focused not just on children but on their families, too, in a holistic manner.

“That’s incredibly important, because families have their own needs and they need to be met in a place where people are comfortable coming and where their needs can be individualized,” Kelly told the Journal-World. “So I think the fact that not just the kid but that the family will be included in this work is incredibly important and is the way it ought to be done.”


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.