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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell graduate offers affordable childcare solutions to local families through LINK Grinnell


In response to the city’s limited options for public childcare, Grinnell alumna Abby Copeman Petig, in collaboration with other key community leaders, created the new LINK after school program, which had its first day on Tuesday, September 3rd. LINK provides Grinnell families with affordable after school programming for the area’s students from kindergarten through seventh grade, partnering with the Grinnell-Newburg School District to house the program at Davis Elementary School.

Ms. Copeman Petig, along with Grinnell’s Director of Chamber of Commerce, Rachael Kinnick, and other Grinnell educators and community leaders, formed a board in the spring to address the issue of a lack of childcare options for Grinnell’s families. Two years of community board meetings culminated in the creation of the nonprofit program LINK, which stands for “Lead, Inspire, Nurture, Keep children educated, enriched, and engaged.” The board’s main duties are now program guidance, and Ms. Copeman Petig, who graduated from Grinnell with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2001, is the president of the board of directors. The program is led by executive director, Chad Nath. 

“I hope this program benefits the community … [so] parents know their kids are safe, they’re having fun, they’re in a good place. It also helps so that parents don’t have to leave work to come pick up kids after school … or to leave work early,” Copeman Petig said in an interview with the S&B.

Ms. Copeman Petig has focused on these aspects of community development for most of her career. She earned her M.A. in Applied Child Development and Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning, and Ms. Copeman Petig currently works for the Center for the Study of Childcare Employment at the University of California, Berkeley in addition to immersing herself in the issues of childcare and the workforce in Grinnell.

The state of Iowa leads the nation in its need for affordable childcare. Parents, particularly mothers, work significantly high hours often at multiple jobs, need to be able to contribute to their families and afford daycare or after school care for their children. Daycare, unfortunately, is often too low in supply and too expensive relative to income. This issue does not except Grinnell. Currently, only one center provides childcare to the town of 10,000 residents.

Ms. Copeman Petig also noted that Grinnell’s daycares often have a waiting list, and many families rely on home base providers.

“I think this is a big problem nationwide, it’s a big problem in the state, and it’s definitely a big problem here [in Grinnell.]”

LINK addresses the importance of community support of families for a local economy to thrive.

“We know that employers are looking at that when they are thinking about places to bring their companies, [and] we know that places like the college are looking at that when they are looking to recruit faculty and staff. We hope that this will help, in a really broad sense, in making this a community where people want to come to, and want to start their families and grow their families, and come and stay engaged in the Grinnell community,” said Copeman Petig.

The program provides transportation at 3:30 p.m. on weekdays to Davis Elementary, where students have supervision, healthy snacks, and help with homework until 6:30 p.m. Ms. Copeman Petig explained that LINK started with an after school program because it would be easy to implement quickly within the existing school system.

Ultimately, says Copeman Petig “Our first priority is to make sure that kids have a safe, inclusive, supportive environment to be in after school. We know there are families who if they could not find good options, their kids were going home after school and were not supervised. So this way, we hope that the kids would be in a school building … and they’d have somebody there who is watching them and playing games and having fun with them.”

LINK looks to expand its programming and partnerships in the future, and eventually offer options for infants through preschoolers, as well as mentoring and tutoring programs.

Registration for the LINK after school program is available through its website and is open to any Grinnell area student.

LINK is currently hiring for program leaders and a site supervisor to work directly with students in the program. Grinnell students are encouraged to apply. The application instructions are available on the LINK website, and applicants must email a brief cover letter and resume to Current Grinnell student Annabel Higgin-Houser is a program leader, and LINK hopes to see more students on their team. Eventually, the program intends to partner with the CLS to offer work-study options for Grinnell students.

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