Providers: Child care database falls short

Although the concept is good, a new statewide child-care database doesn't go far enough to help working parents in Moffat County, local officials say.

Paula Reed, president of the Moffat County Child Care Provider's Association, said a database created by nonprofit group Qualistar Early Learning isn't current and doesn't offer the kind of information parents need.

But creators of the database say they're out to make the often exhausting search for day care easier.

"There are some downsides," Reed said. "It's not been the best program for Moffat County."

Reed said she'd like to see a database that's kept current and includes provider certifications and openings.

"We don't want parents to have to call 15 people trying to find a place for their child," Reed said.

Reaching more people

In October, Qualistar Early Learning launched a toll-free phone line -- 1-877-338-2273 -- which is supposed to provide a one-stop source for parents looking for quality child care. The service pools databases to make information available for every county in the state.

The service is available in English and Spanish.

"That's a great service because we'll be able to reach a lot more people," said Sara Tobin, a Qualistar spokeswoman.

Callers select the language and then key in the first four letters of the county in which they're seeking care. Within minutes of answering a few short questions about their needs, they receive a list of licensed child-care providers in their area.

Local efforts

Moffat County's list includes 24 providers, the type of care they offer and their phone numbers.

Reed said the association is working on a similar database that would include the number of openings a provider has. It might include names of providers who aren't licensed but have special certifications -- such as a list of teens who have taken special classes and are willing to baby-sit.

'Big problem'

Access to child-care providers isn't always the problem.

Michelle VanGrant, a Craig mother, has a list of all the local licensed providers. Although many providers have openings, none have space for her 4-month-old son.

"Finding someone is hard," she said. "There's only one person who has an opening from the entire list."

Licensed day-care providers can only accept two children younger than 2. Those with special certifications, which only one local provider has, can take three children.

"I always get calls, and I always fill up with under-2s pretty quick," day care provider Jennifer Germond said. "That's a big problem in our area."

Most day-care providers fill slots for children younger than 2 with their own children.

"There are times when people call, and they don't know what to do, and they think they're going to have to quit their jobs," provider Janet Martinez said.

VanGrant said she searched for child care for two months before giving birth to her son. She said she felt lucky to have found someone by the time she returned to work, when her son was 6 weeks old.

Evening, weekend need

More providers are needed, so there are more openings for young children, Martinez said.

The Moffat County Child Care Provider's Association offers infant and toddler care certification classes, but the last one was canceled because of a lack of participation.

The association will offer another certification class in January. There are also grants available to help new providers with start-up costs.

There's also a void of providers who work evenings or weekends.

"Most providers don't," said day-care provider Jamie Drew. "But some are changing their hours to accommodate shift workers and evening things."

Drew said she takes children on evenings and weekends on a case-by-case basis.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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