by Tara Walker
There are an estimated 600 children in grand county under the age of 5. There are currently 13 early care and education providers to meet the needs of those children. Affordable childcare options in Grand county are essential for the health and welfare of our children and are important to employers and employees in our county.
Jessica Smolleck is the Childcare Resource and Referral Specialist for Grand Beginnings, “Childcare can be challenging in our county. We are the 5th most expensive county for child care in the state, yet our childcare providers get the lowest wage earnings in the county. Providing quality childcare can be very expensive for providers. Qualifications for early childcare providers are increasing, but wages are not increasing. Many are leaving the field because they cannot maintain employment providing childcare while living in our community.”
Childcare providers are often required to have many hours of training or even a degree while only making an average of 13-15 dollars an hour. We live in the 5th most expensive county in Colorado, so that can make finding qualified early childcare providers difficult.
Michele DeSanti is the director of Kremmling Preschool and has been with the preschool for 7 years, “I would say the biggest challenge is getting people who are willing to work who are qualified. We don’t have a lot of money to pay so we have a hard time getting qualified staff in ECE. There are a lot of mandates that come from the state and a lot of regulations on us. Grand Beginnings has been wonderful to help with training so providers can be group leader qualified or director qualified. Grand Beginnings will help pay for the schooling and helps get staff motivated to do trainings.”
In Kremmling, there are no licensed afterschool, summer or full day Friday programs. In Grand County, the Granby Recreation Center and Fraser Valley Recreation center offer licensed school-age after school care, Friday and Summer Programs to their communities. The YMCA also offers school age programs in the summer. There is a need for providers for infants under the age of 2. In Grand county, we have only 21 licensed slots for children under age 2. Kremmling has only 2 slots. With only 21 infants and babies getting a slot, that leaves a gap that family, friends and neighbors must provide to parents in need. While there is always the need for more childcare options, the quality of care by licensed providers in Grand County is not in doubt. Jessica Smolleck of Grand Beginnings, “All licensed Grand County caregivers are individually highly committed and participate in a professional development system that tracks their training. Most of our caregivers do 15-45 hours of training a year.
We have many early childhood educators with high credentials in Grand County. Little Sprouts in Granby is getting ready to go through rating and once they go through, 100% of our programs will be rated as high quality, most communities have 10-15% rated as high quality.” Kremmling Preschool is one of those high quality programs and offers a full day program and 2 half day programs. It is located within the elementary school. Director Michelle DeSanti says, “We do our best to meet the needs of any family seeking care. We have never turned anyone away, but we have had to move days around to make sure everyone is accommodated.”