In this Newsletter we wanted to highlight two nonprofits, Bright Futures for Families & Children and Mountain Munchkins, working hard for the benefit of our youngest community members as well as bring to light critical childcare issues impacting our region.
Bright Futures is dedicated to providing leadership, innovations, influence and resources to ensure that Ouray, San Miguel, Delta, and Montrose counties have quality early childhood care, education, health, mental health and family services. Mountain Munchkins Childcare & Preschool, located in the Mountain Village, is the only program in Telluride serving children from infancy through preschool. Mountain Munchkins currently has 51 children enrolled with a wait list of 7 infants, 10 toddlers and 4 preschoolers who are ready to start immediately. Yet, in their existing space, they are at full capacity. Each year, Mountain Munchkins has seen a rise in scholarship applications requesting funding for childcare costs in order for families to return to the local workforce.
According to Kathleen Merritt, Executive Director of Bright Futures, “We live in one of the most expensive areas in regards to child care costs. Child care affordability is out of reach for many families in our region; particularly families headed by single mothers. Married couples with children pay anywhere between 8 and 20 percent of their income for infant care.”
“Accessibility and affordability of childcare has been an issue in our region for over a decade,” stated Merritt. “The latest Qualistar Report cites that there are 176 children under the age of 2 years of age in San Miguel County; yet licensed infant and toddler childcare capacity in the county is only for 58 children.
Early childhood programs struggle to keep their doors open, provide their employees a livable wage, and serve the needs of working families. “The need for more infant and toddler spaces in this community should be a top priority. Mountain Munchkins Director, Dawn Katz, However, many organizations do not want to take on this role as it is the most expensive type of care to provide because of the low caregiver to child ratio.”
“It is our job as a community to help alleviate not only the capacity issues but the affordability to allow our families to return to work,” said Katz, “Mountain Munchkins is fortunate to have the generous support of the Town of Mountain Village as the council understands the need for high-quality childcare for our residents. It would be great to see more community support and collaboration on this issue.”
While high quality child care is expensive up front, it is well worth the investment. Children who receive high quality early learning experiences spend less time in special education, are more likely to graduate from High School and less likely to depend on welfare.
The Telluride Foundation and Bright Futures are currently exploring sustainable funding sources for early childhood programs to increase infant, toddler and preschool programs better serve the needs of working families.