Quality Preschool

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Iowa’s child care providers are committed to work they find meaningful, and the majority would like to remain in the field as long as possible. Unfortunately, like many states across the US, Iowa struggles to maintain a high-quality child care system. Particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting and retaining staff and adapting to the changing needs of families in child care is a complex task that requires relevant data to inform strategic decisions.

I2D2 teams are working collaboratively with state agencies, providers, and other stakeholders statewide to better understand the strengths, needs, and challenges facing our child care providers. Using administrative data collected by state agencies and child care providers, combined with detailed survey and focus group approaches, this work is highlighting areas of opportunity to strengthen Iowa’s child care system

Findings in Action

Iowa’s Governor-appointed Child Care Task Force recommendations (2021) identified challenges and proposed solutions to child care for the State of Iowa. Composed of public and private partnerships, stakeholders acknowledged that quality early childhood education and care relies on a strong workforce and that investments in the workforce grow Iowa’s economy.  I2D2 is a uniquely positioned partner In this work with capacity to leverage skills In data collection and integration across siloed systems of health, education, and child welfare to guide statewide strategic planning efforts.

 Led by I2D2 teams, the 2019 Early Childhood Needs Assessment uncovered shortages in the quantity and quality of early childhood related to low-wages and lack of benefits (see also: “Themes in Iowa’s Child Care Conversation”). These findings were highlighted in the statewide strategic plan “We are ECI” with goals Including (a) creating a larger, more skilled early childhood workforce and (b) providing new or expanded early childhood workforce supports to enhance the quality of early childhood programs and services.

Building on this work, I2D2 partnered with ECI on the Estimated Cost of the Child Care Shortage in Iowa Report in 2020 (see also: Iowa’s Child Care Shortage: It’s an Economic Issue). Findings revealed that working families with young children lost an average of $8940 in total earnings; and also revealed a loss of $82.8 million for Iowa businesses and $241 million in lost annual earnings for working families.

In 2021, I2D2 worked with HHS to identify the cost of providing child care in Iowa, required as part of Child Care Development Block Grant funds.

In 2022, the team was recruited to collaborate with the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children (Iowa AEYC) to update a 2016 Iowa Child Care Workforce Study. This work, 2023 Iowa Child Care Workforce Study Report, highlighted critical needs and offered solutions to address ongoing workforce challenges (see also: Compensation is Key to Addressing the Child Care Crisis”).

I2D2 continues to elevate the mission of the Governors Child Care Taskforce through their collaborative efforts with stakeholders and agencies. Current work includes collaboration with Iowa Health and Human Services and Child Care Resource & Referral leadership to develop more real-time data solutions that will highlight child care supply and demand and strengthen child care businesses by providing more efficient data collection opportunities so providers can focus on providing the direct care and support to families when they need it.

Data integration and analysis are the forefront for understanding the workforce trends and needs across the state of Iowa. I2D2 will continue to leverage skills and abilities to inform and guide decision-makers.

Data Briefs

Rouse, H.L., Lippard, C., Betancur, L., Abraham, T., Bruning, J., Li, D. (2023). Data Brief #12 –Iowa Early Childhood Workforce Study: Compensation is Key for Addressing our Childcare Crisis. Iowa’s Integrated Data System for Decision-Making. Ames, IA.


Iowa’s Child Care Shortage: It’s an Economic Issue. December 2020. Iowa’s Integrated Data System for Decision Making, Issue Brief #2:12.20.


Rouse, H.L., Dorius, C., Lippard, C., Peterson, C., Choi, Y., Voas, R., Riser, Q*., Bartel, M.*, Ku, S.*, Bruning, J.*, Gress, A.*, Kelley, E.*, Facile, K.*, & Flake, L*. (September, 2019). Early Childhood Iowa Needs Assessment 2019. Early Childhood Iowa’s Integrated Data System, Iowa State University. Prepared for Early Childhood Iowa. Des Moines, IA.

Riser, Q.*, Rouse, H., Bruning, J.*, Gress, A.*, Dorius, C., & Foley, T. (February, 2020). Estimated Cost of the Child Care Shortage in Iowa. I2D2 Policy Brief prepared for Early Childhood Iowa. Des Moines, IA.

Primary Investigators

Shannell Wagler

DOM Lead and Contract Director

Heather Rouse & Cassandra Dorius

ISU Analysis Lead

Community Advisory Group Members
  • Kelly Davydov, DHR/DOM Program Manager and Preschool Development Grant Director

  • Amanda Winslow, DOM ECI Systems Coordinator

  • Ryan Page, DHS Program Manager

  • Mary Breyfogle, DE Early Childhood Education Consultant

  • Rick Roghair, Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children

  • Tom Rendon, Iowa Head Start State Collaboration Office

  • Vital Statistics Birth Records (IDPH)

  • Kindergarten and Preschool Enrollment (IDOE)

  • Childcare Subsidy Receipt (IDHS)

  • Home visiting and family support program enrollment (IDPH, DOM, DHR)

  • Head Start Enrollment (Head Start Grantees)

This work has been supported by federal funding from the Administration for Children and Families Preschool Development Grant B-5 to the Iowa Department of Management, and by seed grants from Iowa State University and the College of Human Sciences to faculty investigators Heather Rouse and Cassandra Dorius.