June 24, 2015

Early Learning Ventures (ELV) held an in-depth orientation of the Early Head Start (EHS) program in Mesa County last month where it previewed the requirements and opportunities of joining the network. Through a $3.1 million grant from the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership that was awarded to ELV earlier this year, ELV will deliver EHS services to 240 eligible children and families in Arapahoe, Garfield, Mesa, and Pueblo counties.

ELV’s unique, five-prong approach will focus on the following aspects of child care:

  • Sustaining the business model and infrastructure
  • Strengthening leadership
  • Increasing school readiness
  • Engaging families
  • Partnering with the community

The model will also employ program evaluation and continuous quality improvement, ongoing compliance monitoring, and innovative family engagement practices, impacting the entire community.

A total of seven child care providers were in attendance at the meeting in Mesa County, and by the end of the meeting, all seven providers signed a Letter of Intent to join the program and allow the ELV team to begin a gap analysis, which is the first step in the ELV-EHS model. The gap analysis includes an in-person visit to their program to gather baseline data on their operations, financial health, and environment quality.

Lori Ruder who started running her own child care business (FUTURES Early Childhood Center) out of her home in October 2014, was among the attendees. Lori said she was drawn to the program because “It is clear that the program is truly focused on helping kids, and that is my passion.” Lori was formerly a High School Special Education teacher, and most recently a full time foster parent. She decided to start a child care business because she wanted to be able to impact children in their earliest years, when it is most important.

Coreen Edwards also attended the meeting. Coreen is Administrator at Wishes and Dreams Childcare in Grand Junction, a 12-year-old private child care center that provides care to about 124 families beginning at 6 weeks old. She was really drawn to the opportunity for access to Early Head Start offerings, such as dental exams and eye glasses, as she services a lot of low income families, and as a private center, these are resources they can’t offer to families on their own. Additionally, she is excited to take advantage of ELV’s cost savings partnerships for items ranging from insurance coverage to craft supplies. She says, “Through resources like these, my center will be able to realize financial savings that I can then use to finance increasing quality. And, I hope this savings will also allow me to be able to put some dollars towards increasing salaries for my best teachers – some of them have been with the center for 5+ years at the same wages due to how tight the budget is,” she added.

Since that meeting, the ELV team has already completed each program’s gap analysis, and are in the contracting phase for each provider to begin serving EHS children. Through the unique combination of bringing EHS services and ELV resources to child care providers, ELV supports child care staff including Coreen and Lori in their journey to reaching their goals of saving time and money to reinvest in quality initiatives. Whether it’s spending more time teaching children, bringing important services such as dental exams to their families, or making salary increases possible to keep good teachers in place, ELV is here to help every step of the way.