Oak Creek The Little Friends Day Care summer youth program got a boost of local help that could mean a bright future for south Routt's only nonprofit, child-care organization.
In the spring, the South Routt School District agreed to partner with Little Friends' summer youth program to offer transportation, staff and a school building.
The child-care program gives children, 7 to 12 years old, something to do for the summer at a reasonable price.
"It's just a bunch of different activities for the kids," Little Friends Board President Stacey Chadwick said. "There are a lot of parents in the south Routt area that need child care for their kids that age."
The problem is that it is difficult to provide child care that's more than just babysitting at a reasonable cost.
With the school district's help, Little Friends offers swimming in Steamboat and Craig two days a week, travel to Stagecoach to hike and take educational field trips. Recently the group went to the Carpenter Ranch near Hayden.
The district donates its school buses, picks up the bill for gas and pays the driver.
Little Friends meets at Soroco Middle School and uses the gym when the weather is bad. Computer days using the school's computer lab also are scheduled. Furthermore, the district is paying one of its teachers to help with the program.
Before the school district got involved, the summer youth program met at Decker Park and had to find alternative ways to pay for transportation.
"We're in the first leg of joining the partnership," Chadwick said.
The future plan is to have the school district get involved with preschool programs. That includes offering the similar services the youth program is getting and implementing educational activities for the children.
"Steve Jones (superintendent of south Routt schools) really supports the idea that the child's education needs to happen before kindergarten," Chadwick said.
The school district may help with solving staffing issues, too.
"We're looking into possibly buying into their insurance program," Chadwick said.
Day cares around the state are struggling to find qualified personnel because of low salaries, Executive Director of the United Way Donna Horii said.
"They just don't have the money," she said. "Basically, you could get paid more to flip burgers than to do child care."
Partnering with the local school district is one way to solve the problem.
"It's something we're seeing on a national level, but this is the first time it's happened in this county," Horii said. "It could be a major breakthrough for day care, here."
Finding affordable day care is becoming harder and harder, so it's important that Little Friends keeps seeking alternative ways of funding to maintain operations, said Renee Donahue of the Routt County Department of Human Services and a member of the First Impression board of directors.
Little Friends receives money from the United Way and has benefited from grants received by First Impressions.
"What we try to do is oversee all the issues of early childhood," Donahue said.
Recently, Little Friends child care providers were state certified for infant and toddler care through classes organized by First Impressions. A grant by the Colorado Department of Education funded the instructors for the certification.
First Impressions also gave two cash bonuses to the five Little Friends employees, as well as 67 other child-care providers in the county.
The partnerships with the United Way, First Impressions and the school district have enabled Little Friends to stay afloat financially and even extend some of its services, like the summer youth program, Chadwick said.
"Now, we're trying to offer the program so it's more affordable," she said.
It costs $20 a day for each child, or $75 for one week.
"It's still a really good rate," Chadwick said.
With the addition of the County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak and schools Superintendent Jones to Little Friend's volunteer board, Chadwick is optimistic for the future.
To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail email@example.com