Nonprofit group offers free child-care classes

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— The impacts of quality child care in any community extend far beyond teaching a toddler how to share or eat with a spoon. The more public awareness that is raised regarding child care, the better local businesses will be able to hold on to employees with children, the better parents can choose a day-care facility for their children, the better child-care providers can meet the needs of Steamboat's little people and, almost needless to say, the healthier a community's children will be.
Thanks to First Impressions of Routt County, moms, dads, child-care providers, businesses whose employees have children anyone with an infant or toddler in their life can take a free class or an entire free course in quality child care and infant/toddler supervision beginning next week.
Through a grant provided by the state departments of education and human services last year, which First Impressions' Renee Donahue renewed for this coming fall, child-care providers can obtain certification in infant/toddler care. Anyone else who wants to drop in for a session or two is encouraged to come and learn about child-care quality, infant/toddler brain development, the importance of a safe environment, responsive care and appropriate curriculum and partnerships within the community, among other topics.
"You don't have to go for the whole thing," coordinator Debbie Young said. "We strongly encourage parents especially to come to at least a few. This is a really unique opportunity to learn, free of charge, applicable skills and knowledge for infant and toddler care. Also, if you're looking for quality child care in the county or elsewhere, these classes will help you know what exactly to look for."
Young and co-coordinator Sharon Butler are also encouraging local employers to touch base with the program in an effort to understand how to better fulfill the needs of local workers.
"If they want to keep their employees," Young said, "they have to understand their employees' needs and be able to provide and reference quality child care if that's what the employees need."
Networking among parents, teachers and employers will directly increase the quality of child care, Young said, because all of the important issues and tasks are brought under the scrutiny of the public eye.
Last year, more than a dozen people took the full 45 hours necessary to obtain certification. An additional 60 people took the classes periodically. Grant money was also used to improve quality in already-existing child-care centers, including Young at Heart, First Tracks, Kinderhaus and Little Friends. This year, Grand Kids will be an additional recipient of the funds.
The classes will be offered three Mondays a month, beginning in September, and will include one Saturday workshop every month. The course ends after two Mondays in December. For more information on times and topics, contact Debbie Young at 871-4766 or Sharon Butler at 870-9328.

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4204 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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