Community Connections: All Routt County children are valued, healthy and thriving
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — We all make sacrifices to be able to live, work and play in Routt County. Raising young children in our communities is what makes Routt County vibrant, diverse and unique. With Routt County’s high cost of living, it is no surprise that 77% of families with children younger than 6 have both parents in the workforce.
Community leaders fear, that if families cannot access child care, we will lose the families that make the character of Routt County so special. In addition, employers and employees are already feeling the detrimental impacts that a child care shortage can have on the local economy as we struggle to have enough care for our youngest children, especially those younger than 2.
Research shows that 90% of brain development occurs in the first five years, making this a critical time to invest in young children. When children start kindergarten able to listen to their teacher, follow directions and get along well with their peers, they are more likely to graduate from high school and succeed in life. Routt County’s Early Childhood Council, First Impressions, works to ensure that all young children and their families have the resources they need to support their child’s healthy development.
Last year, First Impressions facilitated community conversations with more than 300 community members to create Routt County’s Early Childhood Community Plan. The plan outlines our community needs and serves as a guide to prioritize them for families with young children. The following five priority goals, each with a dedicated volunteer working group, have been our focus for 2019.
- Increase infant and toddler capacity: This group is analyzing gaps and opportunities to determine what is needed to support a sustainable infant and toddler program operating budget. They are also working on the creation of a one-stop resource to help individuals who are interested in forming a new child care facility navigate the steps in the process.
- Recruit and retain a fairly compensated, high quality early childhood workforce: This group is working to identify strategies for recruiting and retaining early childhood providers with education, career pathways, compensation and benefits in addition to exploring additional strategies for increasing participation in the early childhood workforce in Routt County.
- Increase access to specialized services: This group is meeting as the First Impressions Children’s Health Advocacy Team and are identifying ways to highlight parent education resources utilizing the new First Impressions website, which will serve as a one-stop place for all early childhood resources.
- Engage employers in solutions: This group is working with local business leaders to identify the ways employers might sustainably support early childhood solutions. Their first action item has been drafting family friendly workplace policies, and next steps include vetting these policies with employers and supporting implementation.
- Increase community awareness: This group is working to increase our community’s understanding of early childhood care and education. They are currently creating opportunities for community wide screenings of the documentary “No Small Matter” this fall.
Interested in joining a working group? Want to know more about First Impressions? Contact Stephanie Martin at 970-870-5270 or firstname.lastname@example.org. First Impressions new website will be live this fall.
Mission: First Impressions of Routt County works to ensure that young children will be provided adequate resources and quality programs to promote healthy development and school readiness.
First Impressions is a program of Routt County. The First Impressions Council is advisory to the program and is a diverse collaborative of community members committed to coordinating early childhood services and advocating for early childhood in Routt County. The Council is chaired by a Routt County Commissioner and a Steamboat Springs City Councilor.
Stephanie Martin is the program administrator and early childhood advocate with First Impressions. Contact Martin any early childhood questions or for more information regarding Routt County’s Early Childhood Community Plan.
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