Early childhood education providers hope a collaborative effort between Moffat and Rio Blanco counties can offer more accessible and comprehensive services to the communities.
Representatives from several agencies met Thursday night to decide if and how a joint system between the counties could work and to start planning a grant for federal monies to make that a reality.
"We really stress early childhood. It just helps them so much when they get into school," said Pearl Ellsworth, service coordinator for Horizons Specialized Services in Meeker and Rangely. "And I think anytime (Moffat and Rio Blanco) can work together, it's a good idea.
"We have such a large physical area to cover, so if you can have some cooperation between communities and agencies, you just really increase the services you can provide."
Sharon Butler, program manager for the Steamboat Springs-based Family Development Center Child Care Network, facilitated Thursday's meeting. Another meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Moffat County School District administration building, 775 Yampa Ave.
Butler's position entails assisting various counties, including Moffat and Rio Blanco, apply for grants. She proposes that the communities join efforts to apply for the Child Care Development Block Grant Money.
Under the grant's stipulations, neither county qualifies with the minimum number of children or density of children in the area. The grant allows two counties to partner for the monies, however.
"My job isn't to tell you what your community needs," Butler said. "My goal is to help you figure out what you can write this grant for."
Butler said the grant money would be used for a system to make early childhood information and services readily available for children birth to age 8.
"It's all about making sure families have access to the services they need in a seamless way," Butler said.
"And it's not that way in our community right now," said Sarah Hepworth, director of the Early Childhood Center.
The grant application is due Feb. 8, and the grant must be approved by both boards of county commissioners before being submitted.
The grant is the consolidated form of three separate grants the federal government used to offer. The state government will continue to distribute the funds.
This first offering of the grant runs on a two-year cycle. After that, the cycle will move to three-year periods.
"It's best for you as communities to get into this cycle now," Butler said.
Butler said a letter of intent is due to the grant selection committee by Dec. 15. After Thursday's meeting, a grant-writing committee will begin work on the application.
Janet Martinez, who teaches infant and toddler courses for the Colorado Department of Education, said attaining these funds is critical to the future of early childhood services in Northwest Colorado.
"If we don't apply for this grant, everything we did for the last five years basically goes down the drain," Martinez said. "If we don't get together, everything for early childhood's going to go away."
For more information or to get involved with the grant-writing process, call Butler at 879-7330.