First Impressions seeks input | SteamboatToday.com

First Impressions seeks input

Organization offering sessions to determine child care needs

Zach Fridell

— First Impressions of Routt County is inviting local parents to share their views about child care needs as a part of an ongoing campaign to expand services.

First Impressions is conducting four sessions with focus groups this month to clarify child care needs in the county, where many parents are on waiting lists at care centers. First Impressions staff said Sept. 26 that the county needs as many as 75 new family providers to create 150 openings for children as old as 2 years.

Early Childhood Manager Stephanie Howle said the county has three new child care options that have opened since that date, including the Euzoa Bible Church’s day care and two home-based programs.

“It’s exciting that we are seeing results,” Howle said at the group’s annual retreat at the end of October. “We’re doing the work we set out to do and the goals we wanted to accomplish.”

About 10 participants are requested for each focus group, held Nov. 14 to 16. Participants also will earn $20 in Steamboat Bucks, redeemable at any local business affiliated with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

First Impressions has been increasing its presence in the community since its retreat.

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“In these dire times, our services and resources are needed more than ever,” Howle said.

First Impressions works with the Child Care Network to find child care for residents of Routt County. Through the network, Sharon Butler directs parents to the Qualistar Web site, http://www.qualistar.org, to match parents with licensed child care providers, but Butler said she also uses calls from parents as an opportunity to urge them to create their own child care businesses.

“Every time a mom calls me looking for child care, I go through a list of questions with her to see if she might be interested in staying home and taking care of her baby and opening a business,” Butler said.

As a part of the recruitment campaign, First Impressions is reimbursing as much as $700 of startup costs for new businesses and paying for Butler’s assistance in setting up the business.

New business owners must go through an extensive application process, including fingerprinting every adult in the house and receiving health evaluations for every member of the family.

Butler said the need for child care in Routt County is at a breaking point and likely won’t get better in the near future.

“We have a birth rate of 350 children per year, and about 70 percent of moms go back to work nationally,” she said. “That’s about 245 babies that need care while their moms and dads go back to work. We don’t have nearly that number of slots.”

If you go

Child care focus groups:

– Noon to 1:30 p.m., Nov. 14, Steamboat Springs Community Center

– 9:30 to 11 a.m., Nov. 15, Olympian Hall at Howelsen Hill

– 3 to 4 p.m., Nov. 15, Oak Creek Community Center

– 2 to 3:30 p.m., Nov. 16, Hayden Public Library

Food and child care will be provided at each event, and participants will receive $20 in Steamboat Bucks, redeemable at any local business affiliated with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. To volunteer, call First Impressions of Routt County at 870-5270.