Childcare for infants and toddlers is at a premium everywhere in the U.S., and Southwest Colorado is no exception. So El Pomar Foundation, based in Colorado Springs, is doing something about it for this region.
The foundation has committed to investing $100,000 a year for three years to support a collaboration of early childhood organizations. They will focus on professional development, increasing the number of day care slots available for infants and toddlers up to 3 years of age, improving the quality of the early childhood workforce and building capacity and leadership in the workforce, with the goal of reducing director staff turnover.
“This is a result of Rural Philanthropy Days,” said Tamara Volz, executive director of the Early Childhood Council of La Plata County and Southwest Office of Resource and Referral. “Early childhood care and education was selected as a priority in the region, so we had the opportunity to talk about the challenges we face. El Pomar stepped up to the plate to help with some solutions.”
Southwest Colorado Rural Philanthropy Days was held in June. The two-day event gave area nonprofits the opportunity to build relationships with Front Range foundations.
The La Plata County Early Childhood Council will serve as the fiscal agent for the effort that also includes the Montelores Early Childhood Council, which serves Montezuma and Dolores counties, and Seeds of Learning in Pagosa Springs.
“Part of the money will be used for mini-grants for folks to start up infant and toddler childcare,” Volz said. “That will include training, specifically training on quality.”
La Plata County gained 14 infant/toddler slots in 2014 with the help of a grant, Volz said, and the collaborative has set the goal of 20 slots for the region in 2015 as it begins working on the project.
Molly Brown, program associate at El Pomar, said two jobs would be created as a result of the grant, including a staff member to guide the collaboration.
In 2004, El Pomar formed 11 regional councils to increase its impact throughout the state. The councils, made up of community leaders from each region, advise the foundation about the needs in their area.
“After Rural Philanthropy Days, the Southwest Colorado Regional Council determined early childhood care and education needed to be addressed in their community,” Brown said, “and allocated a portion of their budget to devise a sustainable solution to this problem.”
The Southwest Regional Council incudes Durango Mayor Pro Tem Dean Brookie; state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango; Mary Jo Coulehan, Pagosa Verde; Kim White, superintendent of Silverton schools; Byron Maynes, president of First National Bank of Cortez; and Chuck McAfee.
“Working together, we will build a better future for all children in the region,” Volz said.