Child Care in need, Mesa County hopes to double providers

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- For some families in our area, it can be difficult to find child care for kids under the age of five. According to report released by American Progress, that's because many parts of Mesa County are considered a "child care desert."

According to American Progress, a child care desert is when the amount of kids under the age of five is three times the amount of available child care facilities.

In Mesa County, there are 10 neighborhoods matching those criteria. Mesa County Public Health said they have a plan to change that.

"The need for child care is huge," said Kirk Huddleston, owner Discovery Kids Learning Center. "We run at capacity pretty much all the time, we always have."

He said they frequently have a waiting list for all their classes. Child care can be a tough job. It's a field known for low wages and high turn-over.

"We do experience the stresses of turn over and regulation, and those kinds of things, but it really takes a critical business mindset to pull it off," said Huddleston.

"To become a lead teacher you have to take an equivalent of about nine credit hours and about 1200 practical hours," said Jeff Kuhr, Directory Mesa County Public Health.

Employees make about minimum wage starting out.

"It can be extremely rewarding, we're providing great jobs for the community," said Huddleston.

However, an initiative called Childcare 8,000 is hoping to get more providers and reach 8,000 open child care slots by 2020.

"I think Mesa County is really going to struggle to get to 8,000," said Huddleston. "I think they'll struggle to get to 6,000."

Right now, Mesa County has about 4,200 slots for kids, but there are roughly 24,000 kids under the age of 12.

"8,000 is possible, it is a lofty goal," said Kuhr.

Having 8,000 slots would mean about 60 percent of kids in Mesa County would have access to child care close to them.

"Really good child care is impactful to business, and loss of productivity is something that does occur because of the lack of child care," said Kuhr.

That would bring us up to the national average of child care providers versus children.

"Seems like usually, it's mom that's having to cut back on work or step out of the workforce entirely to care for their young kids," said Rasheed Malik, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress.

Last year, the Health Department created more than 200 new slots.
For businesses wanting to start offering childcare, you'd need to get licensed through mesa county, not the state.

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