BEND, Ore. - A consortium of regional businesses, early learning and health organizations, and the Bend Chamber who are focused on tackling Central Oregon’s shortage of child care announced Monday it has hired Megan Norris to begin work on creating more options for those looking for quality, affordable child care.
Norris recently relocated from the Sacramento, Calif., area, where she was involved in the development of utility-scale solar projects and a high-profile urban infill neighborhood, complete with more than 350 homes, five city parks and a community clubhouse.
She has also managed campaigns for the Sierra Club California Clean Cars program, coordinated outreach for Housing California to increase affordable housing, and served on the staff of state and national election campaigns.
“The lack of quality child care options in Central Oregon is unacceptable,” Norris said in Monday's announcement. “I’m excited to find ways to increase available child care to help support our region’s families and workforce.”
Norris will spearhead efforts to pilot new potential collaborative child care programming and operations between Oregon State University-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College to be built and replicated throughout the region.
To address the funding challenges of developing and expanding child care facilities, Norris will work with employers, public sector organizations and private investors willing to help offset costs.
As the Central Oregon Child Care Accelerator, Norris will also lead an effort to help broker collaborative projects that create additional quality and affordable child care in Central Oregon while working with regional partners to assist childcare providers in understanding and navigating the permitting process to expand or build their own facilities.
There are openings for only one in three children under the age of 5 in registered Central Oregon child care centers and in-home providers.
“This is not only a crisis for families seeking affordable and high-quality child care, it impacts employers who are struggling to attract and retain talent in a record-low unemployment environment,” said Katy Brooks, Bend Chamber CEO and a member of the group overseeing the effort.
Working with a regional oversight group, the Child Care Accelerator position is housed with BendNEXT, the Bend Chamber of Commerce’s 501(c)3 workforce development nonprofit, until a new regional organization is formed. Funding for the position is still needed and can be donated to BendNEXT by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.