The two seven-and-a-half-hour classes will be taught in Ridgway, at Miss Brandy’s Early Learning Center, 767 Sherman St., on the consecutive Saturdays of March 25 and April 4.
San Miguel County, unlike Montrose and Ouray counties, and Telluride/Mountain Village/Norwood, unlike Montrose, Ouray, Ridgway and Delta, are in the throes of a early childcare crisis.
“We are seeing parents who need to work, but cannot find childcare,” said Cathy James, Bright Futures’ executive director.
Statistics suggest that the total economic impact of inadequate childcare is costing San Miguel County $5 million in lost wages (including wages that could come in from parents for reliable, convenient childcare – if only they could find it).
So, putting the “bright” in Bright Futures, James and Program Manager Jill Burchmore have come up with a plan to train parents and other would-be childcare providers to the level that they’re able to open up a facility of their own.
For a total cost of $289, and an expenditure of 29.5 hours, Burchmore explained, anyone can embark on the education process that begins with the two-day pre-licensing class ($50) to qualify as a childcare provider for up to six children in their home.
That’s if the home qualifies, of course, and meets fire, health and zoning inspections, and after the would-be provider passes a routine background check, mandated by the State of Colorado.
Other building blocks leading to the creation of a home-based (or public building-based) early childcare center include, for the person in charge, classes in Medication Administration (4.5 hours, $40), Universal Precautions (2 hours, $45), CPR for infants and children (4 hours, $35) and Community First Aid (4 hours, $35); the licensing procedure ($12.50); fingerprinting fees ($10/card); a Colo. Bureau of Investigation background check ($17.50/card) and Federal Bureau of Investigation background check ($22) and a licensing application fee ($22).
All of the necessary classes are taught in Telluride, as well as at Delta-Montrose Tech College and Montrose Memorial Hospital.
To keep up with the licensing, Burchmore said, childcare providers must take 15 hours of education per year – training that Bright Futures “provides for free.
“We have 335 spots available” in San Miguel County, Burchmore says of the dilemma Bright Futures hopes to redress, all filled, leaving roughly 250 more families (with as many as 350 children) in need.
Putting the average cost of early childcare in San Miguel County “at $40-50” for a full day, Burchmore was quick to note that each facility comes up with its own scholarship packaging programs.
Existing early childcare facilities in San Miguel County include Rockies, Toddler Town, Telski Nursery, Rainbow, the Peaks’ Base Camp, Mountain Munchkins, Norwood Preschool, Telluride Preschool, Mountain Sprouts, Rockies After-School, Montessori at Mountain School, Prime Time, Rascals and Telluride Early Childhood Center.
There’s one home-based program as well, in Telluride, run by the newly licensed Ru Biener.
“By enabling parents to work,” Burchmore said, a local childcare industry could generate “up to $2.4 million for the county economy,” in after-tax gains by workers “who would otherwise leave the workforce or reduce their hours, if childcare is not available.
“In addition,” she added, “the economy could gain $2.7 million through the operation of an adequate number of childcare centers.”
She goes on to paint a picture of continued unavailability of childcare in the county: In 42 percent of the affected households, at lease one member would exit the workforce; 30 percent of the worker households with children would move out of the county; the average household would lose $26,000 a year in earnings; so that, altogether, impacted households would lose $3.9 million in wages.
It’s a dark picture, and a mystery, to boot, considering that Montrose County has 52 childcare providers, and Delta County between 30-40 providers meeting the necessary criteria.
Observing that early childcare is hugely beneficial in later years, Burchmore quoting from a study conducted by the State of Colorado, observed that the “largest amount of brain development takes place before the age of 3, and that formal childcare gives children a jump start on their formal education that leads to “a more educated labor force, and reduced reliance on public government programs,” as well as increasing children’s social responsibility and “providing early intervention services for children with special needs.”
Burchmore, a certified teacher of grades K-6, said she got hooked on the nonprofit work world as director of Telluride Association of Realtors, a position she left to work for Bright Futures, first as an accountant, then as a consultant, then as the point person for the unsuccessful bid for Proposition A, and finally as Bright Futures’ program director.
For information about funding, licensing and anything else to do with early childhood education, call Burchmore at 970/728-5613 or visit www.brightfuturesforchildren.org.