Thoughtful Parenting: Help wanted: Infant and toddler care in Routt County | CraigDailyPress.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Help wanted: Infant and toddler care in Routt County

Sharon Butler/For Steamboat Today

Are you a working parent with a child younger than three years old, or do you know a working parent with children younger than three? If so, you are probably aware of the struggle to find quality, licensed child care for infants and toddlers in Routt County.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Routt County's average annual birth rate from 2010 through 2014 was 215 births for each year. The total licensed capacity for infants and toddlers is 82 slots. Approximately 68 percent of Routt County families with children younger than five have both parents in the workforce, according to date from the 2010 U.S. Census. The Colorado Department of Local Affairs projects Routt County's birth to age five population to grow by 70 percent between 2015 and 2030. No matter how you look at it, the availability of licensed care for our youngest citizens is distressingly inadequate.

All very young children need nurturing, responsive, quality relationships and experiences to reach their optimal development. Children who receive high-quality child care are more likely to go to kindergarten ready to learn and experience success in life. And the return for every dollar invested in having children ready for school is exponential when children do not need special education services and successfully graduate from high school.

What does a quality child care facility for infants and toddlers look like?

• It is a licensed child care center or family child care home in good standing with Colorado's Office of Early Childhood.

• It has responsive, nurturing and warm interactions between caregiver and children.

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• It maintains appropriate teacher-to-child ratios.

• It keeps children happily involved in daily activities and receiving individual attention.

• It is a clean, safe environment, including the sleeping, eating and toileting areas.

• It provides varied materials and experiences that support each child's development.

• It has defined business procedures reflected in a contract agreement with parents about fees, schedules, sickness policies, emergencies, etc.

• It offers ongoing communication with parents.

• It hires well-educated, consistent teachers.

• It has an emergency plan that includes the preparation of a mobile emergency kit, practice of evacuation/fire drills, a shelter-in-place plan and supplies and up-to-date emergency information.

How, as a community, can we help to support families with young children?

• Be aware that there is a Family Child Care Home Capacity Building project through Child Care Network in collaboration with First Impressions of Routt County. If you would like more information about this project, call Child Care Network at 970-879-7330.

• Join First Impressions for an Infant and Toddler Capacity Building brainstorming session, which is taking place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug, 26 in the County Commissioners' Hearing Room, located on the third floor of the Historic Routt County Courthouse (522 Lincoln Ave.). Contact Stephanie Martin to RSVP or for further information by phone at 970-870-5270 or by email at smartin@co.routt.co.us.

• Spend seven minutes watching The Social Womb video on You Tube to learn more about how the entire community benefits from supporting a child's development during the first three years.

Sharon Butler is program manager for the Family Development Center's Newborn and Child Care Networks and a member of Routt County's Early Childhood Council, First Impressions. For more information on parent and program resources for children ages birth to five, call Sharon at 970-879-7330 or email ccn@familydevelopmentcenter.org.

If you go

What: First Impressions for an Infant and Toddler Capacity Building brainstorming session

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26

Where: Historic Routt County Courthouse (522 Lincoln Ave.) in the county commissioners hearing room

Information: Stephanie Martin, 970-870-5270, smartin@co.routt….

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