Since 1986, the University of Nebraska at Omaha Child Care Center (UNOCCC) serves as a resource for staff, students, faculty and community members.
In addition to providing quality child care, UNOCCC now offers financial support to low-income families, thanks to a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
In 2018, UNOCCC applied for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant. As part of the grant, UNOCCC was awarded $165,940 a year, for four years to fund scholarships for low-income families to cover enrollment costs.
The grant was the only one issued to a Nebraska child care center for the 2018-2022 grant cycle. The center has been awarded the grant two other times since 2000. Dawn Hove-Casart, the director of UNOCCC, said she applied for the grant because it helps low-income parents afford tuition and receive their education.
“My number one priority is to assist our families,” Hove-Casart said. “It’s gratifying when I tell those parents about the grant and the tears well up because they know that it will be okay.”
With rising child care costs, Hove-Casart said it costs more to send a child to a quality child care center than to pay for secondary education. Hove-Casart is well-aware of the need for affordable tuition, as about 50 percent of the center’s parents are UNO students.
“The significance is being able to help these families,” Hove-Casart said. “It’s a huge relief for them to know they can focus on their studies and not have to worry about where the money will come from.”
To apply for the CCAMPIS grant, parents must be eligible for the Pell Grant. Hove-Casart said parents have expressed relief and excitement over the funding. With the tuition assistance, everything is a little more manageable for the eight families and 11 children helped by the grant.
In addition to the scholarships, the grant also funds technology updates, facility renovations, parent workshops and staff training. The award will also cover the cost of field trips and updating the toddler bathrooms.
Hove-Casart said she takes seriously the UNOCCC motto, “Educating the university’s youngest students.” She strives to help families and the 80 children currently enrolled at the center by employing quality, trained staff.
As part of this mission, Hove-Casart seeks to provide continuity and stability to the parents and children at the center. She said UNOCCC is special because students who once were children at the center often attend UNO and enroll their own children in the program, “a place that feels comfortable.” Some students even return to the center as staff members.
“UNO is home to a lot of people and we continue to provide the quality that is needed,” Hove-Casart said. “That’s just part of who we are.”