Letter: Every child deserves quality care
I have been very interested in the articles related to the shortage of early childhood education and care in Eagle County. I am retired, from Pennsylvania, spending the summers here in the beautiful mountains with my grandchildren. I devoted my professional life as director of a National Association for the Education of Young Children-accredited early childhood center of excellence, and I encountered all of the roadblocks to quality care that have been mentioned in the articles.
We were lucky to enroll my grandchildren in the Children’s Garden of Learning. Every child is entitled to a preschool education of that caliber. I am in total agreement with all of Maggie Swonger’s points about the challenges of child care, but most important is that the financial needs of the field cannot be passed along to the consumers.
Here are a few points for consideration moving forward:
- Broaden the understanding and relationship of care and education from a child’s birth to age 5. They cannot be separated. These are some of the most important learning years for children and programs for this age group must include all of the elements of high quality early education: qualified staff with decent salaries and benefits, developmentally appropriate environments, and staff-child ratios that allow for quality programming, to name just a few. To view early care as just a means to get employees is short-sighted, and doesn’t honor our youngest citizens.
- In addition to thinking about salaries for early educators, other possibilities would be to problem-solve innovative ways to offer health benefits, some contribution to retirement, and other supports that are usually not available to people in this field.
- As Maggie mentioned, early childhood programs are never fully funded by tuition, and much of a director’s time can be consumed with fundraising. If there was a means to ensure that a center was guaranteed a minimal rent, or that utilities would be covered, that would help with budgeting and salaries. My center owned a building and rented half of it for steady income.
- I don’t know what percentage of care is currently in licensed homes, but would it be useful to recruit more licensed home caregivers by providing financial help to bring homes or apartments up to code, to purchase furnishings and supplies, and to get the training needed to establish themselves?
- I am well aware of the need for affordable housing, which goes hand-in-hand with early education opportunities. When new housing is built, would it be possible to include space for a center for young children? There would be a cost attached for the space, but are there partnerships to be forged with businesses, foundations, and public funding sources to cover the cost of these spaces?
- Since Colorado Mountain College offers varied early childhood degrees, is there an opportunity to create a partnership with the college to subsidize students enrolled in early childhood classes as well as create opportunities for early childhood employees to continue to work while they earn a degree, preparing more staff for expanded numbers of centers and homes.
Having devoted my professional life to ensuring that children and families receive quality early care and education, I am well aware of the challenges. But I am certain that there is enough will, creativity, opportunity, and finances to face these challenges and make Eagle County a national model for quality early care and education for your children and families.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
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