Child Care Crisis growing in southern Teller
The southern Teller County area is facing a growing child care crisis that could endanger its future as a community that attracts families.
However, help is definitely on the way through an unlikely ally for a county known for its conservative ties: President Obama and the feds.
As a result, the Cripple Creek/Victor region has hit the jackpot for funding opportunities for child care assistance for toddlers and young infants. But with this boom in federal dollars, which amounts to more than $5 million over the next five years, the area needs a definite partnership between the school district and the city of Cripple Creek.
These were the messages delivered by Patty Waddle, a director of the Head Start and Early Childhood Education programs for the Cripple Creek/Victor RE-1 District, in addressing the Cripple Creek City Council last week.
Waddle made it clear that the local area has serious issues regarding the unlicensed care of young kids in the district and unveiled some definite horror stories. She cited many sexual assault and abuse cases, stemming from relatives of families that are unequipped to handle young infants, and from problems casino employees experience in tending to their kids due to their work schedule. At times, she said friends of casino workers are entrusted with caring for young toddlers because of the absence of any private child care facilities. She stated that local businesses often struggled from the lack of child care, with not a single private operator available in the district. And with the financial woes confronting many families in the district, early childhood care is often non-existent, according to Waddle.
And due to this growing community need, Waddle said the district was successful in landing a major multi-year federal grant, aimed at developing more private child care outlets and coordinating the current services available through the school district and the city of Cripple Creek, with the end result of providing 24/7 safe, quality care for young kids.
The Cripple Creek/Victor area was one of only four communities in the state that received this money through a program, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration and heavily endorsed by the Obama administration. Waddle admitted she was shocked that the Cripple Creek/Victor district prevailed in a grant process that was extremely competitive.
“We are getting a lot of recognition. We have come together,” said Waddle, in describing the collaboration of many organizations in the district to make this pilot program work.
But if no improvements are made in the licensed child care arena, the district faces a possible extinction of families moving to the area, fears the Head Start leader.
“Our families need this,” said Waddle, in making a pitch for an intergovernmental agreement between the school district and the city. “There is a huge community outpouring…Otherwise, we are not going to have a community. We got to have this (grant program) here. Can you live where there is no child care?”