Early childhood forum for parents this week

If you go

Moffat and Rio Blanco County Social Services officials plan to host parent forums seeking feedback on what early childhood services the department can provide. The forums are:

Today - Rangely

When: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Giovanni's Italian Grill, 885 E. Main St.

Today - Meeker

When: 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Where: Fairfield Center, 200 Main St.

April 16 - Craig

When: 7 to 9:30 a.m.

Where: Center of Craig, 601 Yampa Ave.

There's a discrepancy between the importance of early childhood education and the amount of money invested in it, Debbie Yeager said.

Most of a person's brain growth happens between birth and age 6, said Yeager, who has been the Moffat and Rio Blanco counties Social Services early childhood coordinator since February.

"That age is so important," she said. "That's also when we invest the least amount of money."

The state Legislature agrees, or it did when it passed House Bill 1062 in May 2007, which expanded the Early Childhood Council program to the entire state. The program started with 10 pilot districts across Colorado a few years ago.

Moffat County and Rio Blanco are new to the program, and the process is getting under way this week to form a local Early Childhood Council. Parent forums are planned for Meeker and Rangely today and one in Craig on Wednesday.

"It's so important to teach these kids new things everyday," she added. "Things that will broaden their horizons. And to give parents the support they need to be involved and make sure their kids are getting the best chances to succeed."

The forums will allow local parents to meet, hear statistics on shortfall areas for Northwest Colorado children compared to state averages and decide what issues the community should tackle and what methods to tackle them with.

At the forums, parents can volunteer to be a member of the early childhood steering committee, which will meet about four to six times afterward, Yeager said.

The steering committee will formulate concerns and directives for the Moffat and Rio Blanco counties' Northwest Colorado Council for Children and Families, which will be created from volunteers after the steering committee concludes its meetings.

Yeager's job as coordinator will be to work for the Council, she said.

For instance, more Moffat and Rio Blanco children are enrolled in WIC than in other locations across the state, which could suggest new parents need more financial help raising children.

If the steering committee identifies that as a primary concern, and the Council asks Yeager to find more support for new families, she will start researching grant opportunities and looking for additional resources that may or may not already be available.

"It's not what I think," Yeager said. "It's what the community needs and wants."

This week's forums are the first chance for parents to enter the discussion on behalf of their children.

About 40 people have made reservations for the Craig forum, Yeager said, and more are welcome.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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