Thoughtful Parenting: Routt County early childhood plan update | SteamboatToday.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Routt County early childhood plan update

Beth Melton/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Over the past five months, a diverse group of community members has come together to work on a plan for early childhood in Routt County. The purpose of this process, facilitated by the First Impressions Early Childhood Council, is to create a comprehensive early childhood community plan to identify needs and work on solutions for early childhood in Routt County.

This is not a plan created by a group of outside consultants, but a plan that reflects the people of Routt County. Through this process, we received input from more than 300 community members and compiled their thoughts into meaningful documentation of the challenges and opportunities related to early childhood in Routt County. Look for the final version of this document soon.

The challenges

Several challenges emerged as the following themes.

  • We have a significant shortage of child care capacity for children from birth to age 2.
  • Cost is a barrier for families.
  • Families do not have options for a non-standard work schedule or children with significant medical or behavioral needs.
  • Child care is a barrier for employers in recruiting and retaining employees.
  • Maintaining a high-quality, early childhood workforce is a significant barrier to increasing capacity.
  • Many factors related to a healthy community are intertwined with early childhood — mental health, poverty, housing needs, health care, legal services, food insecurity, etc.

Indicators of success

This planning process is just the beginning. The challenges identified are big and complex, and we are committed to tackling them. We have identified several indicators of success — specific metrics related to these indicators will be created over the next several months.

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  • Increased supply of infant and toddler care for children from birth to age 3.
  • Pipeline and set of strategies for recruiting and retaining a high-quality, early childhood workforce.
  • Children are ready for school by the time they enter kindergarten — and we have a shared definition of what this means.
  • Increased level of service for gap groups — those who do not qualify for services under current definitions but still have demonstrated needs.
  • Families have access to community health and human services, especially early in a child’s life.
  • Community understands the important impacts of early childhood care and education.
  • Employers support early childhood care and education for their employees and community-wide.
  • Families have affordable options that fit their needs.
  • Access to services is equitable for all members of the community.

The path forward

Early childhood education providers, elected officials, business representatives, parents, specialized service providers, immigrant services representatives, public school representatives, funders and other community leaders are involved in this work and committed to moving it forward. We are moving forward with action steps for the following priority solutions.

  • Increase slots available for infant and toddler care in Routt County.
  • Recruit and retain a high-quality, early childhood workforce.
  • Increase access to specialized service providers.
  • Engage with the community to increase understanding of the critical roles of early childhood education and care.
  • Partner with employers to support early childhood education and care.

This early childhood community plan is not the end. It is the beginning. And we look forward to updating and engaging with the community on this work as we move forward. If you are interested in supporting this important work, contact Stephanie Martin at smartin@co.routt.co.us.

Beth Melton is an executive board member of First Impressions.

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