Infant child care spots still lacking in Vail Valley
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Enrollment in the Vail Valley’s licensed child care centers is dropping, but the need for infant care just keeps growing.
At the moment, there are 15 open spots for infants in all of Eagle County. There are also 229 families on waiting lists for infant care in the county. A lot of those kids haven’t been born yet, but the families are on the lists, hoping for spots.
That was one of the issues the Eagle County Commissioners talked about Tuesday with several representatives from the county’s Bright Start program.
“We really need another 400 spaces to get our capacity for infants to the same level as we have in preschool now,” Jennie Wahrer said.
The county’s initiatives to encourage more licensed child care in the valley have paid off over the last few years, Wahrer said. In fact, more than 500 spaces have been added over the last three years. According to Bright Start’s figures, those additional spaces now meet about 75 percent of the need for care for preschoolers.
The problem with adding infant care is its cost. A preschool can operate with one adult for every 10 kids. That ratio is more like three kids per adult at state-licensed centers for infants.
The other problem is cost. Parents often pay $50 per day, or more, for infant care.
That problem probably won’t be addressed in next year’s county budget, given that money is likely to be tight for every county department.
“But we need to keep funding programs and providing assistance for parents,” Wahrer said.
The challenge for the next year or two, Wahrer said, will be to improve the quality of the licensed child care programs in the valley. That means better-trained teachers and more educational programs for toddlers and preschoolers, she said.
Wahrer said that while enrollment may be down for now – because of both unemployment and the economic necessity to have friends and relatives care for kids – demand for care will return as the economy improves. And there are all those babies and babies-to-be already on lists.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.
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