JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Freeman Health System has announced it plans to open a child care center early next year for its employees.

President and CEO Paula Baker called the center a "lifelong dream" when making Thursday's announcement.

The Joplin Globe reports that Freeman Learning Center will take children between six weeks old up to 6 years old. Freeman Health System has more than 5,000 employees, although it did not have an immediate estimate of how many needed child care or determined yet the cost of the service to employees.

Baker says a child care center is frequently mentioned in surveys the hospital conducts on changes that can benefit its employees' lives. The plan is to offer "structured play" aimed at helping children grow intellectually, emotionally and socially in addition to fulfilling basic needs.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com