Complex childcare problem requires collaboration

Survey launched in Friend, E-M districts about childcare awareness, needs


There is a desert in Friend; a childcare desert. Friend’s only childcare center closed in December 2023 leaving many parents wondering, “now what?” 

At first look it may appear the lack of childcare only impacts a portion of the community, but the lack of care options in Friend has a much further reach, impacting most people whether a youth is in their home or not. 

It touches employers being able to retain and recruit ideal candidates, losing out on employees to communities that have childcare. It may mean a staff member has to travel from Friend to another community for care, flip a U-turn and return to Friend for their work day.

Grandparents and community members may be watching children before and after school wondering what the summer will bring.

And while individual survival solutions are being identified from home to home, are the children being left behind in their educational development to become school ready?

There is a direct correlation between quality, education-based childcare in a community and economic development and viable communities. 

The problem is complex. A long term sustainable solution takes collaboration.

A task force has been created to help address the circular issues in Friend and neighboring communities with the goal of creating the Friend Learning Center. This core team is made up of community members who want to see the City of Friend and their neighbors thrive. 

The Friend Learning Center’s team has partnered with Communities for Kids (C4K), a three-year early childhood and quality planning contract through Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. C4K will bring practical experience with early childhood education and care and support the infrastructure process.

The initiative planning funding has a $30,000 reimbursement with $10,000 per fiscal year. 

Before creating the Friend Learning Center, the committee needs input from many different perspectives. A five- to seven-minute online survey was launched Feb. 20, seeking insights from the community. The survey is compatible with mobile devices.

The survey is not just for parents of children ages 0-10, but for anyone this issue touches. Reminder: that means any person who lives in or around Friend or has done business in or around Friend. Residents of Exeter, Milligan, Cordova, Beaver Crossing and Dorchester were encouraged to participate. 

“The survey can be distributed to anyone who does not understand why early childhood education is important also,” said Katrina Hurley, early childhood assistant vice president for Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. “The more diverse participants, the better for the steering committee. Building a center takes a lot of research and each community is unique in their needs and resources.”

If you have any questions about completing the survey, contact Derek Anderson at (402) 947-2781. The survey may be completed online at