Haley Brabec, a student at the Discovery Learning Center in Steamboat Springs, plays on the swings during recess. A recent report released by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy shows child care costs in Routt County have increased by 35 percent since 2008.

Photo by John F. Russell

Haley Brabec, a student at the Discovery Learning Center in Steamboat Springs, plays on the swings during recess. A recent report released by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy shows child care costs in Routt County have increased by 35 percent since 2008.

Child care costs rising in Routt County

Higher prices put strain on parents, providers


— Quality child care is a valuable gift for Jennifer Shea and other working parents of children who frequent the Discovery Learning Center in Steamboat Springs on weekdays.

But it is a gift with a growing price tag in Routt County.

“The rising cost certainly does put a financial strain on our families, but it is a conscious decision we make,” said Shea, who works full time at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation while her 4-year-old daughter, Claire, attends the Learning Center. “We have seen costs steadily increase on everything from in-home day care to various child care facilities.”

According to the 2011 Self Sufficiency Standard for Colo­rado, a Routt County family of four — two parents with an infant and preschooler — needed $78,818 annually to pay bills and sustain itself. In 2008, a family of four needed $65,791. The Self Sufficiency Standard, which is calculated every three years by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, is watched closely by local child care providers and showed that the estimated monthly child care costs for the same Routt County family of four increased 35 percent from $1,703 in 2008 to $2,295 last year.

First Impressions of Routt County’s Early Childhood Council program supervisor Stephanie Martin said parents’ salaries have not increased enough to afford the difference on their own.

“I find it hard to believe families have seen that increase in their income,” she said. “While there has been an increase in the cost needed to make ends meet, employees have to do more work to make the same amount of money.”

She said the report shows more subsidies are needed to help Routt County’s 13 child care centers and preschools maintain their ability to provide toddlers a safe and engaging learning environment at a time when parents are finding it more difficult to receive financial assistance.

In 2010, the Routt County Board of Commissioners approved lower income eligibility requirements for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program from 225 percent of the federal poverty level to 130 percent because there wasn’t enough money in the program’s budget to support the need under the previous requirements.

Martin said that change cut the number of funding options available to moderate-income families who still struggle to afford child care in the Yampa Valley.

“The First Impressions Council continues to work to help families find ways to make ends meet and stay in our community,” Martin said. “We’re always looking for more grant funding to be able to increase the amount of assistance we offer.”

She said the rising costs parallel the rising overhead costs that day cares and preschools must meet to keep their doors open.

Strain on providers

When Tami Havener started as the director of Steamboat’s Family Development Center in 1984, she made $7 per hour, and she said Tuesday that the facility’s tuition rates reflected that. Day rates at the center have increased slightly from $55 in 2008 to $61 this year, and scholarship assistance has risen alongside those higher costs.

“Over half of our families are on scholarships through a variety of funders,” she said, adding that the center historically has had 30 percent of its families on scholarship assistance.

She said that while parents face higher gas, food and child care costs, the center also is paying more for employee health insurance, school supplies and fuel for field trips.

“Our board of directors has really worked hard to keep tuition as stable as possible while still allowing the business to keep its doors open,” Havener said. “The rising costs mean I have to spend more time balancing the needs of families versus the needs of staff versus the needs of the agency, which includes the mortgage and our bills.”

She said her board of directors will meet Wednesday to discuss the tuition rate for next school year.

Worth the cost

At work on Tuesday, Shea said she feels fortunate to have a high-quality child care facility she has trusted to educate two of her daughters. But she said rising child care costs continue to take up a considerable portion of her family’s budget.

“At one point this past summer, I condensed my work schedule to four, 10-hour workdays to have one less day of child care, but it didn’t work in the long run,” she said. “The biggest thing is we don’t buy new cars or go on big vacations, but all families eventually have to come to that realization when they live here. This is where we chose to raise our family and to maintain small class sizes. We never lose perspective of the gift of our children being in a great environment while we work, even if it comes from a greater portion of our budget.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com


bandmama 5 years, 2 months ago

Ummm, my child is 18. As a previous child care/daycare provider...(in a another state) This is HORRIBLE. There are not many jobs here. When one comes up? Most can not take the position due to the non ability to provide childcare. Those providing day care, are doing what the rest of are trying to do, make ends meet. While a parent in the home is the best course of action, it is not feasonable (always) to do so. Where are the grants, and a little give to those who want to work? NOT here. Cost of living is a lot!!!! What is being done to help those parents in need of reasonable daycare here? NOTHING!!! Many, like me, could do childcare in my home, but I rent and the lease excludes "bussiness" ventures from the home. Even though this would give income to me and provide a source of up four families to do the same. My landlord. "OOPPPSSS" doesn't allow it. I could pay rent on time, but current circumsances wont let me earn a dollar... " even though there is a market.....just saying....and something to think about.


mavis 5 years, 2 months ago

Why is it that my comments post an entire day AFTER I make them usually?? Hence the absence of my post made a few hours ago still has NOT posted, and that seems to be the trend. ( yet others are automatically posted) Very interesting----Again one simple question----- how much does a family of 4 with 2 kids in daycare need to make annualy according to your data? Really just a question to compare data..


mavis 5 years, 2 months ago

This is great learning for me--- Thank you Pilot!! Pubic vs, Private info is great info!!


mavis 5 years, 2 months ago

LOL I can't stop laughing at the typo... I asked for the comment to be removed- typing too fast and I was so very irratated that my first comment NEVER posted. Then the following ones post instantly. Kind of tired of that.
Anyway THAT was a good laugh for me at my own expense!!


Scott Franz 5 years, 2 months ago


Unfortunately the Self Sufficiency Standard report does not include an estimate as to how much a family of four with two kids in daycare needed to make in 2011. Two adults with an infant and preschooler is the closest they have to that family makeup.

You can view the report here: http://www.selfsufficiencystandard.org/docs/Colorado2011.pdf

Data for Routt County is listed on page 85

Scott Franz 970-871-4210 scottfranz@steamboattoday.com


Stephanie Martin 5 years, 2 months ago

While funding is limited, First Impressions secures early childhood care and education scholarships from Routt County United Way, City of Steamboat Springs and Routt County to help offset the cost of safe, nurturing and enriching early learning environments for low income families.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

For a family with more than one kid needing childcare then a high quality babysitter appears to be a more affordable option The parent saving daycare expense by taking care of their kids and babysitting two kids can be improving the family budget by $150 a day.

So how is First Impressions and Discovery Learning Center doing in terms of number of kids? Are they full? Waiting list? A bunch of empty slots?


mavis 5 years, 2 months ago

Scott- it's not as easy as that for families. Being pregnant is a pre- existing condition so that complicates insurance issues. Most people try to look at the longevity of their jobs and keep the ones that are most reliable in this economic situation. The other spouse might work in an industry that is greatly suffering and need to work when they can without the flexibility of just working certain days. Therefore full time daycare is needed.

  1. Bottom line for everyone with or without kids is the cost of living has kept going up with pretty dramatic increases.

  2. Nobody has had pay increases... most are on a decrease

  3. The economy is actually NOT looking better

  4. The middle class is probably worse off then the ones living on the Government and Obamanation care. Because we are still paying for their expenses plus more.


sledneck 5 years, 2 months ago

Why are these problems arising? 1. A state that chews through the production of families in order to be "daddy" to so many others. There was a time that a fathers salary could support a family of four; but not now, not when the state consumes a mans labor at such a voracious rate.

  1. A state that continues to debase the currency at a faster rate than salaries can match. You hear so many people saying "prices are going up" or "things have gotten so expensive...". Not one person in 100 describes it the way it actually is. If prices of a few items change relative to all others that can be described as specific price change. But when almost all items move up in price relative to the medium of exchange that is currency inflation. The next time your heart almost stops at the grocery store checkout try not to think of the goods in your basket costing more; try to think about whats really happening: What you are handing the clerk (dollars) is increasingly worthless so he must demand more of them. Ditto for the babysitter.

mavis 5 years, 2 months ago

Very well said sled YVB- if people didn't have to pay so much to the government it wouldn't be an issue. It makes me sick every time I do the taxes at the end of the year. What Obama has created/ or made extremely worse is killing the middle class, and small business. Yet people are still standing in line waiting to vote for him. People on welfare of any type should not be allowed to vote in this election. Enough said- so ya better re- think your don't have kids comment.


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