La Plata County is coming together this week for the Week of the Young Child, today through Saturday.
We want to focus on the needs of our young children and their families, and to recognize the early-childhood programs and services that meet these needs.
Young children and their families depend on high-quality education and care to get a great start and bring lasting benefits to our communities. This week is a time to recognize the importance of early learning and literacy, and to celebrate the teachers, policies and organizations that bring early education to young children.
Today, we know more than ever about the importance of children's earliest years in shaping their learning and development. Yet, never before have the needs of young children and families been more pressing.
In the U.S., the majority of mothers with children under age 18 work, including 59 percent with infants and 74 percent with school-aged kids.
Approximately 13 million infants, toddlers and preschool children are regularly in non-parental care in the U.S., including 45 percent of kids younger than 1. We believe the percentages in La Plata County are the same.
Research shows that high-quality early-childhood programs help children develop the skills they need to succeed in school and throughout life.
In La Plata County, we have approximately 33 centers and 25 home day cares taking care of our young children. There are 1,319 licensed slots for kids younger than 5 years old. This is a large service to families.
What can we do to recognize, support and celebrate this most important segment of our communities? Thank teachers and all early-childhood professionals working with young children.
Businesses, take a look at what you can do. Having a solid network of child-care choices enables people to work and further contribute to our economy right here in La Plata County. You have many employees because they have child care. One very special businessman stepped up and created an entire early-learning center as a gift and thank you to Durango. The centers can all use donations, sponsorships and partners.
We all can influence policies locally, statewide and nationally. We can and must do more for early learning, childcare, child health and family needs. Many agencies work for young kids right here. Please contact me, and I can direct you to one of the many organizations currently working in these different areas.
Lastly, please attend one of the many events planned this week. Our kickoff is today at 1 p.m. at the Durango Community Recreation Center Amphitheater, where Mayor Parsons will proclaim the Week of the Young Child. We will close with the always-fun Kid's Fair in the Durango Mall on Saturday, and many other activities all week long.
Take your kids, young or old, and share in the fun and the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of children and families. Kids can bring us together; and we must come together for them.
Martha McClellan has been an early-childhood educator, director and administrator for 32 years. She currently is consulting with and supporting early-care providers. Reach her at email@example.com.