Toby Morse, 4, and Lilly Waldron, 3, color inside the home of child care provider Tracy DelliQuadri.

Photo by John F. Russell

Toby Morse, 4, and Lilly Waldron, 3, color inside the home of child care provider Tracy DelliQuadri.

Home centers could alleviate child care crunch

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Home day care

Finding a child care provider can be a difficult task in Steamboat Springs.

Finding a child care provider can be a difficult task in Steamboat Springs.

— Coloring book drawings decorate the walls of Tracy DelliQuadri's refrigerator, while a toy truck is parked on her coffee table. Such sights are common in the homes of most parents, but it's just another day at the office for one of Steamboat Springs' few child care home providers.

With Routt County parents facing child care waiting lists that often stretch for years, officials hope to encourage more people to license their homes as child care centers. DelliQuadri is licensed to care for as many as eight children in her home, which also serves as the Little Bear Child Care Center.

"I think every single director in town will tell you that another entire child care center can be opened and filled instantly, but you wouldn't be able to staff it because there is a huge staffing shortage in town," said DelliQuadri, who resigned as director of Young Tracks Preschool and Child Care Center two years ago to stay at home with her children.

Stephanie Howle, director of First Impressions of Routt County, said opening enough new child care centers to meet demand is unrealistic because of start-up costs.

"Because of the overhead cost with running a center, it's more feasible to expand the amount of available care in the area by having people licensed out of their homes," she said.

First Impressions is an early childhood council that coordinates various family resources in the area. To help potential home child care providers afford licensing costs, the council is offering as much as $750 in reimbursement funds.

"Home care is a great alternative to center care, and we hope to increase child care slots through home providers and want to give the incentive we hope to improve the quality of their environment for age-appropriate activities and resources," Howle said.

The process to get licensed takes 60 to 90 days, said Sharon Butler, program manager for the Child Care and Newborn networks. She helps people move through the licensing process, which costs as much as $200 in fees and classes. There often are additional costs associated with remodeling a home to accommodate children.

"It's a multi-step process that includes background checks, classes and a visit from a Colorado child care licensing agent," she said. "These are just the minimum rules and regulations to become licensed, but to access First Impressions funding, you must go through a Qualistar rating.

Qualistar is a state organization that evaluates and rates preschools. The ratings are from evaluations conducted in the spring. DelliQuadri's center received a perfect four-star score last year.

DelliQuadri worked in early childhood education for 20 years before opening her center, but she noted she is in no hurry to return to work at a large day care center.

"I was worried the very first week because I wasn't full, and it was a huge risk for me because I left a job that had health insurance benefits and pretty good pay," she said. "But in the long run, I'm definitely more financially secure than I was being the director of a center. Plus, home care is a good situation for infants and toddlers because it is such a small and cozy place for an infant to be."

The need for child care in Routt County is "astronomical," DelliQuadri said, a point underlined by the daily phone calls she receives from families franticly searching for a center with an opening.

"If you are not in a center when your child is 1, you won't be in a center until your child is 3, probably," said DelliQuadri, who stressed that Little Bear is an early learning center geared toward preparing children for kindergarten.

"I get phone calls every single day. I tell them I have six children and my families are really happy. ... I have one opening a year, maybe," she said. "There is not a lot of turnover."

For more information on becoming a licensed family child care home provider, call Sharon Butler at the Family Development Center at 879-7330.

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