Statewide early childhood care listening tour coming to Steamboat to hear advantages, barriers to life in Northwest Colorado | SteamboatToday.com

Statewide early childhood care listening tour coming to Steamboat to hear advantages, barriers to life in Northwest Colorado

Steamboat will serve as hub for Northwest Colorado

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Seeking to better understand the biggest child care challenges facing families and other stakeholders, the Colorado Health Institute selected Steamboat Springs as one of 18 sites across the state in which to host a day of focus groups.

On Thursday, Aug. 1, two listening sessions will be held at Bud Werner Memorial Library. The first, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., is geared toward child care providers, professionals, advocates, policymakers and other stakeholders. The second, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., is seeking participation from parents and caregivers.

It’s an exciting opportunity for the region to contribute to a statewide conversation and five-year strategic plan, said Stephanie Martin, program administrator for First Impressions of Routt County.

“It’s imperative that the state understands the unique advantages and barriers to living in rural Northwest Colorado,” she said.

The emphasis is on the provision of care for children ages birth to 5.

In partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services, the event is supported through a federal grant and will collect information anonymously to help the state “inform a strategic plan on early childhood,” according to Nina Bastian, program manager for the Colorado Health Institute.

“It will be synthesized with data from other sources, including a family survey tool, individual interviews and data from existing needs assessments and sources and shared with the Office of Early Childhood,” Bastian said.

Steamboat was selected as a hub of Northwest Colorado, she added.

For those who can’t make Thursday’s sessions, there will be additional opportunities to give input through a survey and online webinar, for which links will be provided on the First Impressions Facebook page.

If you go

What: Colorado Institute focus groups on early childhood care
When: 11:30 a.m to 1 p.m. for stakeholders; 5:30 to 7 p.m. for parents and caregivers, Thursday, Aug. 1
Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

Martin also emphasized the event’s incentives — a meal, small stipend and child care — with which she hopes assist in boosting participation.

Dinner and lunch will be provided during the listening sessions, and free child care will be available on site. Parents, caregivers and early childhood professionals will receive a $30 Amazon gift card.

Locally, through the Early Childhood Council, Martin has been working intensively with families, providers and stakeholders over the past year to develop a strategic plan for Routt County.

The council, Martin explained, “keeps a pulse on what’s working well and what the needs are, so we can further strengthen and streamline the available resources.”

Martin said the greatest areas of need they continue to see locally are a demand for more infant and toddler spots, whether that is in a formal child care center or a more informal at-home setting. The best solutions will provide options to meet the needs of individual families, she said, and of course, make those options affordable.

Another critical need, Martin added, is to find ways to recruit, train and retain early childhood teachers and increase their wages.

For more information about Thursday’s focus groups, contact Bastian at bastiann@coloradohealthinstitute.org.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.


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