Breckenridge council discusses solutions to child care staffing concerns, shortage
With larger solutions coming later in 2022, council members discuss short-term solutions to expand access to child care
Breckenridge children make up slightly more than half of Summit County’s waitlist for child care. To fix that, Breckenridge Town Council members discussed potential short-term solutions to decrease those numbers.
More than 600 children are enrolled in facilities across Summit County, and more than 600 more are still waiting for a spot to open. Breckenridge residents make up 355 of the 620 total children waiting for a spot in one of the county’s child care centers. Of those on the waitlist, infants make up one of the highest proportions, according to previous reporting from the Summit Daily News.
Council member Kelly Owens said during the work session that each center is down several staff members, further contributing to large waitlists. She added that there’s no single solution to keep recruit and retain staff, either.
“People get hired and then they end up not coming, or they get hired and then they find a restaurant job,” Owens said. “Some we’re losing to housing, for sure. There’s not a silver bullet. There’s just not one thing. It’s a lot of things.”
She said at child care committee meetings, members discussed the possibility of partnering with Colorado Mountain College and other entities to create feeder programs to potentially alleviate shortages.
“That’s the big question and concern with any of these new facilities or expansions,” Owens added. “It’s, ‘How are we going to staff?’”
Council member Dick Carleton said he was interested in continued efforts in making licenses for smaller, at-home facilities more accessible. Since there are so many children waiting to get a spot in a facility, approving many smaller operations instead of building several large facilities could be easier, he said.
“We sure would like to support (at-home child care services) in any way we can … as long as they’re safe,” Carleton said. “We want some kind of criteria to ensure they’re safe, absolutely, but I think that’s got to be part of the solution.”
Last week, Summit County commissioners also discussed more immediate solutions to provide relief for local parents looking to find a spot for their child. One of those solutions could be a neighborhood care system between families.
This could be a network of trusted, unlicensed adults who provide child care from their homes in neighborhoods throughout the county. At that meeting, commissioners said they have seen similar advertisements on social media between community members, but they suggested that a formal, vetted network could be beneficial until long-term solutions are put into place.
The Smith Ranch child care center — a partnership between the town of Silverthorne and Summit County — is set to break ground in May. It will open 60 to 80 spots when finished, Owens said. A smaller child care operation that could open by this fall is Zuma Playhouse in Montezuma, which could bring further relief to the large waitlist by the end of the year.
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