Childcare resources and challenges in Grand County

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This toddler is enjoying the new playground at YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch. While many quality playgrounds can be found, finding childcare can be a struggle when Grand County only has the capacity for 12% of infants and toddlers needing licensed childcare. 50 slots are available when there are 390 children under the age of 3 in the county.
This toddler is enjoying the new playground at YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch. While many quality playgrounds can be found, finding childcare can be a struggle when Grand County only has the capacity for 12% of infants and toddlers needing licensed childcare. 50 slots are available when there are 390 children under the age of 3 in the county.

by Tara Walker

Childcare in Grand County is high quality, but expensive and experiencing labor shortages according to Maegan Loktoff, Executive Director of Grand Beginnings.

Grand Beginnings is a childcare resource in Grand County with a mission to promote a child-centered school readiness system that fosters early learning, facilitates healthy child development, and promotes family success.

The nonprofit agency was formally established in 2003 to serve six incorporated towns within Grand County and is a coalition of community members and leaders representing families, early childhood education, health, mental health, family and child support services, K-12 education, businesses, and local government.

Grand Beginnings receives funding annually from the Summit Foundation and 100% of that funding goes to supporting the Kremmling Preschool and the two licensed family child care homes in Kremmling with materials and professional development. The funding is also used to provide family education opportunities in Kremmling. Grand Beginnings uses the Summit Foundation funds and the BOCC donor fund to support other programs in Kremmling including oral health screenings for children up through grade 5, hearing and vision screenings for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

There are an estimated 650 children in Grand County under the age of 5, but Grand County only has the capacity for 12% of infants and toddlers needing licensed childcare. That is approximately 50 slots for 390 children under the age of 3. In addition, less than half of Grand County 3 and 4 year olds attend preschool. 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 yet families struggle when Grand County is the fifth most expensive county for child care compared to median income. For a family of four to be considered self-sufficient in Grand County, they would need an annual income exceeding $61,986.

Jessica Smolleck, the Childcare Resource and Referral Specialist for Grand Beginnings states, “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. Michele DeSanti is the director of Kremmling Preschool and has been with the preschool for 8 years, “I would say the biggest challenge is getting people that 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.”

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.”

If are interested in finding childcare, would like to donate or if you would like to fill one of the open positions within Grand County by becoming a licensed childcare provider, you can contact Grand Beginnings at 970.725.3391 or visit www.grandbeginnings.org.

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