Steamboat Springs After months of long waiting lists and filled facilities, Routt County child care centers have found themselves with vacancies in recent weeks.
Kim Martin, director of Young Tracks Preschool and Child Care, said the number of openings is the highest in her 13 years with the center.
"In all the time that I have been with Young Tracks, or in child care, we've never really been lower or had much availability until now," she said. "We have always, always had a full room."
Martin said that since February, the number of openings has increased to several infant slots, with room in each of the other age groups.
"We had a locked-up waiting list forever, and all the sudden we have openings and nobody is needing care, or people are calling and saying, 'I know you are going to say no, but I was wondering,' and I get to say, 'Actually, we do have room,'" she said.
Martin said the openings have led her to place an ad in the Steamboat Pilot & Today and begin talking to local pediatricians and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association to inform new parents of the availabilities.
The dip also has meant a reduction in staff, with part-time vacancies left unfilled, she said.
Martin said there is room for three full-time infants, two full-time 1-year-olds and a few slots for 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds.
"We had a handful of folks on the list for April and either they found alternative day care or we got disconnected numbers and never heard from them again," she said.
The change could be caused by the economic slump and its repercussions, said First Impressions Early Childhood Manager Stephanie Howle.
"With the furloughs taking place with the city employees, and now the county's employees, with that one day off a week then they get to pull their child out of child care that one day and save money that way," she said. "I've also heard that 'Dad was doing construction and now he doesn't have any work,' and he's staying home with the child."
The decrease in hours has left some would-be providers stranded without any children in their care.
Karina Craig, a mother of two, went through classes and home inspections to earn her certification to care for as many as four additional children, from newborns to children 6 years old. But after she completed the work in October, she was unable to find any children to care for.
"It's been a few months, and I haven't had any luck filling the spots," she said. "I think things have slowed down with the economy."
Craig, who lives in Blacktail Mountain Estates near Stagecoach, said she struggled finding openings for her own children when she began looking in November. Working part-time for Integrated Community, Craig could not find one child care provider with two openings and ended up sending the children to different providers.
"That was in November. I would imagine it would be a little easier now," she said.