According to Kyle Kellum, CEO of Cherry County Hospital in Valentine, the availability of quality child care is one the first questions asked by potential new residents. To help close the gap, many rural Nebraska communities are getting creative in how they bring high-quality child care to their residents. And Rural Prosperity Nebraska is helping. Kellum, CEO of Cherry County Hospital, found a different solution to the child care gap. When a day care in Valentine shut down during the pandemic, leaving several children without care, suddenly many hospital employees couldn’t come to work — a serious concern during a pandemic. In the summer 2022, Rural Fellows Grace and Carine, hosted by Valentine Economic Development, worked with the hospital to create a business plan for a hospital-centered day care. However, through the data collected from the organization-wide surveys, Kellum and the hospital board decided that option wouldn’t work. “So it evolved,” Kellum said. “We took it from the hospital owning and operating the day care, to the hospital having an agreement with a day care provider in the community to only provide child care for hospital employees. And it started with the survey that the Rural Fellows did.” Seven hospital employees have contracted with a certified provider in Valentine to offer day care to their children. The provider is not a hospital employee, nor does she contract with the hospital itself. However, she reserves the openings in her day care specifically for children of hospital employees. This model creates stability for the provider and employees and allows for expansion as needed. When it comes to child care, there is no model that works for all of rural Nebraska. Each community faces unique problems, and each community has unique assets and strengths they can draw from to resolve those problems. Currently, the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, after numerous requests, is exploring what child care cooperatives might look like in Nebraska. Overall, the general consensus is that better, more quality-driven child care in rural communities makes for a better, stronger state. Kellum said: “Whether it’s Cherry County, the Valentine community or the entire state, solving child care will allow the state to grow. No question.”