by D.J. DeJong

Mail Staff Writer

Chaffee County child care professionals and community members from Salida, Poncha Springs and Buena Vista met Thursday at the invitation of Chaffee County Early Childhood Council to discuss the obstacles and possible solutions to several aspects of child care, including infant care, in the area.

The meeting came about in response to stipulations in SB16-063, Infant and Family Child Care Action Plan, which requires the Colorado Department of Human Services, in consultation with stakeholders, to study the reasons for the declining availability of family child care homes and infant child care and provide input into a strategic plan to address that decline.

Janine Pryor of the Early Childhood Council told attendees there has been a decline of 1,582 family child care homes and a resulting decline of 7,300 licensed infant slots in Colorado since 2010.

Chaffee County experienced a decrease of 74 percent in licensed child care homes from 2010 to 2018.

Many rural communities, such as those in Chaffee County, rely on family child care homes since infant care options in centers are limited.

Pryor shared statistics from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs stating that in Chaffee County in 2019 there are:

• 973 children ages 0-5 years.

• 425 of those are infants to toddlers younger than 2.

• A total of 12 licensed providers.

• No centers serving infants at this time.

• Six licensed home child care providers with a total of 12 slots in homes for infants or children younger than 2.

Attendees were asked to weigh in on five areas of concern, identifying obstacles that made licensed child care difficult.

They then identified the most pressing obstacles in each area and offered solutions.

Areas of concern were:

• Child care licensing.

• State and local policies and regulations.

• Workforce challenges.

• Business development and training.

• Public will and perception.

Some of the obstacles identified were:

• Being isolated with the difficulty of getting time off for professional support.

• Wages and benefits such as health care.

• Lack of space.

• Cumbersome requirements.

• No formalized method of gaining a knowledge base in running a business.

• Not being recognized as a small business by the small business community.

• Others not seeing the connection between child care and workforce needs.

The results of the group’s work were collected and will be compiled and shared with Colorado Department of Human Services by Sept. 16.

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