After 16 years of working to connect Jackson County families with child care resources and services, Janice Read is retiring as executive director of Child Care Network.

The agency, which receives funding from Jackson County United Way, soon will begin a search for Read’s replacement. But to find and train the right person to take over, Read plans to stick around through the end of September.

A reception to celebrate her contributions and retirement is being planned and will be announced later in the year.

Holly Sipe, co-president of the agency’s volunteer board, said Child Care Network wouldn’t be what it is today without Read’s leadership and service.

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“We have been extremely fortunate to have Janice at the helm of our organization,” Sipe said. “She is passionate about our children’s basic needs and has worked tirelessly to ensure our communities have affordable, safe and healthy child-related resources.”

Read said there’s no other reason behind her retirement other than it “just feels like the right time.”

“I think everything is doing very well, and it’s exactly where I want it to be,” she said. “My energy level is still there, but there needs to be someone younger, someone coming in with fresh ideas. We are a good agency and have done very well, but there is always room for improvement. New ideas are a good thing.”

Read began working for Child Care Network in 1998 and has seen it grow in the number of both families served and the programs and activities it offers in support of enhancing the quality of life for families with young children.

“I was contacted by Ruth Ann Rebber, who at that time was executive director of United Way,” Read said of how she was hired. Rebber has since retired from her position. “She knew I was moving back to the community from Columbus, and she wanted to know if I might be interested in working for this agency.”

Child Care Network, a nonprofit entity, has been around for 25 years and was started as the Child Care Resource Center. Its main purpose was to address the issue of latchkey kids, or those children who would go home to an empty house after school because their parents were still at work.

Out of that need, Kids Klub was born and continues to be a partnership with Seymour Community Schools that is valuable to the community, she said.

Read’s position started as a part-time job, and she said she really didn’t know what to expect at first.

“I asked, ‘What exactly am I going to be doing,’ and was told I would be growing the agency and would be doing whatever the community needs me to do,” Read said.

Having been born and raised in Jackson County and with a background as an education consultant for the Indiana Department of Education, it turned out to be the perfect fit.

“I thought it would be a good transition for me,” she said. “Little did I know that it was going to turn into what it is 16 years later. I would have never anticipated this position continually growing. And the agency has grown and changed, but that has been the joy because it’s all about children and it’s all about doing what the community can for the children in Jackson County.”

Read said Child Care Network is unique because it was developed in Jackson County for the county’s families and is not aligned with a corporation or any other entity that controls it.

“This is what has allowed Child Care Network to be doing so many different programs and so many different pieces that all connect together,” she said.

The agency serves more than 1,600 children each year. It operates the local Child and Adult Care Food Program, which provides federal reimbursement to 56 licensed home day care providers in seven counties that serve nutritious meals and snacks. It also manages Kids Klub before- and after-school child care sites and the county Court Appointed Special Advocate and Guardian ad Litem programs, which assist children in court proceedings.

Child Care Network also is responsible for coordinating the annual Kids Fest event, which is a day of fun, free activities for children and their parents, and the Jump Start to School Success programs, which help prepare children entering kindergarten.

In the past, the agency helped organize and run a Family Preschool program, but that has been taken over by the schools for the time being.

“There’s no way I could pick my favorite part of Child Care Network,” Read said. “I like everything.”

One of the biggest joys of the job, however, is community involvement, she said.

“Being director has allowed me to meet many people from all different aspects of the community,” she said.

It’s those people and her co-workers whom she will miss the most.

“The staff I work with, they’re not there for the money,” she said. “They are there because they see the value in what they are doing, and they enjoy children and like people.”

Tammy Dye, co-president, said Read will be missed.

“Janice’s commitment and drive for Child Care Network’s mission has served the community well for over 16 years, and we wish her well on her next journey,” she said.

That next journey is undetermined, Read said. She plans to spend more time with her family and explore other interests.

“But there will be order in my life and things to do,” she said. “I’m not a stay-at-home kind of person.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.