Preschool teacher Heather Higgins reads a story to preschool students and parents during the Moffat County School District’s extended-year program June 26 at the district’s Early Childhood Center. Connections 4 Kids, the early childhood council serving Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, recently released its 2011-12 Annual Report, which included details about the council’s professional development projects for early childhood providers. The rug and book pictured above were part of the Early Childhood Center’s grant application.

Photo by Michelle Balleck

Preschool teacher Heather Higgins reads a story to preschool students and parents during the Moffat County School District’s extended-year program June 26 at the district’s Early Childhood Center. Connections 4 Kids, the early childhood council serving Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, recently released its 2011-12 Annual Report, which included details about the council’s professional development projects for early childhood providers. The rug and book pictured above were part of the Early Childhood Center’s grant application.

Connections 4 Kids issues annual report

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Courtesy Photo

Jessie Gorley reads to her son, Tristin Bush, 3, during the Moffat County School District’s extended-year program at the district’s Early Childhood Center. They are sitting on a child-sized couch and reading a book purchased through Connections 4 Kids’ classroom grant opportunity for licensed providers who participated in Connections 4 Kids’ Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale training. Connections 4 Kids also offers educational scholarships for early childhood educators.

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Courtesy Photo

Dustin Santistevan, 5, plays with sand toys at the Moffat County School District’s Early Childhood Center. Connections 4 Kids early childhood council purchased the toys, as well as furniture, rugs, puzzles, balls and cultural music and toys, for several early childhood centers recently, a project highlighted in Connections 4 Kids’ recently released Annual Report.

At a glance ...

Connections 4 Kids recently released its annual report detailing the organization’s accomplishments in providing opportunities for children in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties from July 2011 to June 2012. Among its programs are:

Cavity-Free at Three:

• 101 regional health, dental and early childhood professionals were trained for the program, which is designed to prevent oral disease in young children.

• 282 young children in the area were screened for oral health.

Early childhood providers:

• $6,500 was granted to locations like the Early Childhood Center for classroom materials such as furniture, music and toys.

• 31 scholarships totaling $13,500 were awarded to 20 providers throughout Moffat and Rio Blanco counties from the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation.

Cherish the Little Things Children’s Art Show:

• 210 pieces of art by 175 area artists ages 3 to 18 were part of a children’s art show in February 2012.

• $8,000 was raised during the show for Connections 4 Kids.

Total program budget:

• $153,779 funded by organizations like The Colorado Trust, Colorado Department of Education/Colorado Department of Human Services, Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation and numerous community donations.

Organization welcomes new oral health coordinator:

Connections 4 Kids, the early childhood council for Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, recently announced the addition of a new oral health coordinator, Amanda Arnold, who began in the position July 16. Arnold has worked for Northwest Colorado Medical Management and for physicians at Yampa Valley OB/GYN, as well as a licensed daycare provider. She earned a bachelor's degree in health care management with a minor in business at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Cavity-Free at Three is a three-year, statewide effort to prevent oral disease in young children. The effort aims to engage dentists, physicians, nurses, dental hygienists, public health practitioners and early childhood educators in the prevention and early detection of oral disease in pregnant women, infants and toddlers. Arnold replaces former program coordinator Ashley Moon to complete Connections 4 Kids’ three-year grant through The Colorado Trust to implement Cavity-Free at Three in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. Moon, who stepped down because of a change in her work schedule, will remain involved with the council’s work and offer trainings in the future. “I am very excited about my new position as the oral health coordinator because I feel this program is very important and can benefit the overall health of children in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. Dental cavities are one of the largest childhood diseases and they are completely preventable,” Arnold said in a news release. “I look forward to collaborating with local medical, dental and early childhood providers to implement this important program.” A mother of two, Arnold has worked with the Connections 4 Kids council with numerous activities. “We are pleased to welcome Amanda to Connections 4 Kids and our Cavity-Free at Three work,” said Michelle Balleck, Connections 4 Kids coordinator. “Amanda’s education and experience in the health care field and background in daycare give her a great set of skills and relationships to build on. I am confident Amanda will be successful in the remaining 18 months of our implementation of the Cavity-Free at Three program.” For more information about Cavity-Free at Three, call Amanda Arnold at 824-1036, or visit www.cavityfreeatt...>

Connections 4 Kids, the early childhood council for Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, recently issued its annual report for the timeframe of July 2011 to June 2012.

The report details numerous efforts the organization has made on behalf of youth.

“It’s a way to give our stakeholders in the community an overview of the projects that we’ve done and a quick look at our work,” C4K Coordinator Michelle Balleck said. “It’s not just for people who are involved with the council now but those who might be in the future.”

Among the programs implemented by C4K in the last year is Cavity-Free at Three, a three-year statewide effort to prevent oral disease in young children.

The effort aims to engage dentists, physicians, nurses, dental hygienists, public health practitioners and early childhood educators in the prevention and early detection of oral disease in pregnant women, infants and toddlers.

More than 100 health, dental and early childhood professionals in the region received training for the program, screening 282 young children for oral disease.

Now about halfway into the program’s cycle, Balleck said the main goals of the organization have been to train 50 percent of health care providers involved in the project to work with young children and further educate 100 percent of child care providers involved.

“We’re moving pretty rapidly toward that goal,” Balleck said. “We’re fortunate that a lot of dentists in our area were already seeing young children. What we’re trying to do is carry on and build a program that will be sustainable even after our grant is gone. It’s a strong start for us, but we only have a limited amount of time.”

Balleck said dental care for children so young can be easily overlooked.

“Oral health with baby teeth affects so many parts of overall health like speech and all sorts of things, so it’s key that kids have healthy mouths so they can progress the way they’re supposed to,” she said.

Ashley Moon, former oral health coordinator and registered dental hygienist, accepted the first ever Cavity-Free at Three Recognition Award in May from funding organization The Colorado Trust.

“Ashley did a lot to coordinate with the dental hygiene programs and the nursing programs at (Colorado Northwestern Community College), and they’ve been so receptive and willing to incorporate this into their programs, and I think it’ll help to educate those future generations,” she said.

C4K recently brought on Amanda Arnold, who has worked with several health organizations in the area, to replace Moon, who stepped down because of a change in her work schedule.

Moon will remain involved with the council’s work and offer trainings in the future.

Among the other activities listed in the report is Connections 4 Kids’ distribution of funding from the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation for scholarships to early childhood professionals in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, providing $13,500 to those furthering their education.

The organization also provided more than $6,000 in classroom grants to area childhood centers — those that underwent training for the self-assessment Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale — for expenses like furniture, toys, music and other learning tools.

Balleck said C4K also began a new year-long funding cycle at the beginning of May, which will run through April 2013.

Her report also includes details on February’s Cherish the Little Things Children’s Art Show, which was one of Balleck’s first projects once she began working with the organization in December 2011.

The art show, staged in conjunction with the Moffat County School District, featured more than 200 paintings and other art works from 175 children ages 3 to 18.

“It was amazing to be able to step into that and we were really pleased with the results,” she said. “The reception we got was just so warm and the children really seemed to enjoy it. We’re already starting to plan for the next one.”

The art show also raised about $8,000 in funds from community donations.

“We’re trying to build that up because it’s really important to us to see what kind of local investment we have in our children,” Balleck said. “We’re always thankful for the support.”

For the future months, Balleck said C4K is working on bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to the area. The program provides books to interested families with children younger than 5.

“There’s no socioeconomic guidelines for who can be in it and once you’re signed up, you get a book mailed to you every month through your fifth birthday,” she said. “It’s a great way to get age-appropriate books into kids’ hands and build that foundation for literacy. We’ve wanted to promote that at an early age and that program should be a great way to do that.”

Balleck said her own involvement with the organization has been very rewarding.

“It’s been kind of a learning curve, but you can actually see the impact you have on children and communities to have a nice foundation of health and well-being that they can go into their later years,” she said. “I’m really loving it and I’m really enjoying all the support and collaborations we’ve built and will continue to build while we continue our work.”

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