Eagle County: More early-childhood programs underway | VailDaily.com

Eagle County: More early-childhood programs underway

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Vail resident Olga Wilkins was nervous about leaving her children at day care while she was at work, but now she knows they are safe and happy, she said.

She said she wasn’t comfortable or familiar with the day-care system until she started working as a day-care provider through BrightStart, the county’s early childhood development program.

The job allowed her to see what the environment was like and how qualified and trained the workers were. Now she can return to work full-time and feels comfortable leaving her children at day care, she said.

“When I pick them up, I can see that they are happy and well-fed,” Wilkins said.

WIlkins’ family is one family in the county that has benefited from BrightStart, which includes efforts to recruit, train and keep day care workers, she said.

The program offers sign-on bonuses and salary incentives for additional child care training and education.

A year after county commissioners voted to fund early childhood development programs, organizers report that fundraising efforts are almost complete and that several new services will be launching soon.

Upcoming services include a new Web site and forum for parents, nurse home visits to low-income first-time parents, and a reading program for kids and parents.

The funding for the program totals more than $1.5 million, and about $350,000 of that comes from community matches from area organizations and businesses. So far about $314,000 has been raised, BrightStart Co-Chair Jennie Wahrer said.

One of the program’s goals is to hire more qualified day-care workers and keep them for longer.

Many of the worker programs went into effect about six months ago, so it is still too early to tell if it has made a difference, Wahrer said.

– Nurse Family Partnership ” This program provides home visits from nurses to 50 first time, low-income pregnant women and their children. Visits start in early pregnancy and continue until age two. The nurses will give women health tips for them and the children. The program is funded by a state grant and will start in July.

– Network of Care ” This Web site provides links to all the community resources for parents and children. The site will have forums, event notices and articles. It launches on Tuesday.

– Gypsum Child-Care Center ” The new child-care site will have 54 spaces, and 34 of those will be for infants 6-weeks to 3-years-old. The center is scheduled to open in the fall.

– Raising a Reader ” Families get a book bag to read together with their kids. When they are done, parents can trade it in for another bag of books. The program has a “cuddling component” which encourages parents to read with their kids, organizers said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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