"I’m really excited. This is what we want from the program. To have families excited about reading and energized about the program. But we’ll need more funding to make it possible.”
— Connections 4 Kids coordinator Michelle Balleck, about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program running out of funding for new registrations.
Connections 4 Kids, serving Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, has been busy.
With the launch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the Awesome Parent program, environment rating scale trainings and compiling resource lists for parents, coordinator Michelle Balleck has been busy too.
Balleck said the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program received an overwhelming response from the community, registering as many kids in the first eight days of the launch as the national organization projected them to register by the end of the second year of the program.
And although Balleck is happy with the response, she said it breaks her heart the agency will have to suspend registration for the time being while seeking additional funding for the program.
"I’m really excited," Balleck said. "This is what we want from the program. To have families excited about reading and energized about the program. But we’ll need more funding to make it possible."
As of Friday, Balleck said she had 120 children registered in Rio Blanco County and 165 children in Moffat, with some registrations filtering in.
Balleck said the national organization gave projections for the number of kids that would register before the project launched.
“They give you projections so you can budget and we used them to the dollar,” Balleck said.
Balleck said she’ll let the community know when they’re able to fund and accept more kids into the program.
Another new initiative Connections 4 Kids is getting up and running in December is the Awesome Parent program.
A project of the parent education committee, Balleck said the program is a way to recognize parents exhibiting terrific parenting skills that also allows them to share those skills with other parents.
Awarded on a monthly basis, parents can be nominated by anyone using a form available on the Connections 4 Kids website, www.connections4kids.org.
The form asks a couple of information questions then a question about the nominee’s parenting skills, “What makes this person an awesome parent? Describe an example of an admirable parenting moment he or she has exhibited.”
The selected nominee will then be featured in either the Craig Daily Press and/or the Rio Blanco Herald Times, as a way to share their parenting skills with the community.
“Everyone can improve. Everyone has different parenting styles,” Balleck said. “I think sometimes you feel like you’re struggling alone as a parent and that no one else has ever gone through this. The program brings parents together to brainstorm and commiserate. It’s one more avenue we can share those experiences together.”
Connections 4 Kids has also put together both a parent resource list and dentist resource list.
Balleck said the parent resource list includes resources that help parents with behavior and mental health issues. She said it includes all behavioral support classes, therapeutic classes and parent support groups in both counties, along with national websites and help lines.
The dentist resource list provides pediatric dental providers, what types of insurance and payment they accept, along with all contact information.
Balleck said the list also includes the names and contact information for Northwest Colorado pediatric dental specialists, not only those in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.
The lists are available at Connections 4 Kids partners throughout the community, such as the VNA and Yampa Valley Pregnancy center. Both lists are also available on the Connections 4 Kids website.
Connections 4 Kids also just recently hosted two environment rating scale trainings.
Balleck said the program teaches early childhood providers to use a self-assessment tool to assess the environment provided for the children and look for areas of improvement.
“The goal is to train providers to assess on their own and make improvements happen,” Balleck said.
One of the sessions held in Craig was for family childcare environments, for those who provide care out of their homes. The second one, held in Meeker, was an early childhood rating scale to be used by staff of preschool and early childhood centers.
Balleck said eventually those who are trained in using the self-assessment tool will be able to apply for mini grants to make improvements through Connections 4 Kids.
Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org