BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A pilot program that helps central Indiana childcare centers fill substitute jobs could soon be expanding, according to the program’s director.

The Monroe County Start Smart Childcare Program is designed to help turn psychologists, nursing students, and educators from all backgrounds into qualified substitute childcare providers. It’s a program some providers say they’re hoping will launch statewide soon.

“We can’t offer accessibility to families if we don’t have the workforce,” said Christin Olson, IU Bloomington’s Early Childhood Education Services Director.

The “Start Smart” program is designed to help licensed early care programs such as homes, ministries and childcare centers find substitutes to help offset high turnover costs.

“The loss of revenue for our alliance has been $831,000 from March 2022-March 2023,” Program Director Jennifer Myers said. “That’s a big hit.”

Myers said since the program was launched this past year, the pilot has brought on 15 qualified substitutes and has partnered with 14 childcare programs.

“We really see the substitute provider pipeline as a way to support emergency needs around childcare,” Myers said.

According to Myers, the program is also working to expand to other parts of the state (specifically North Indiana and South Indiana in the near future.

“Just starting out as a pilot to make sure it gets right before they’re expanding it out into a statewide scale,” Myers said.

Olson said it is a possibility.

“We have looked into that. We weren’t part of the initial hub, and, I think, I’ve heard great things,” Olson said.

Official launch dates for the program to expand have yet to be released.