PI Editorial: What we owe our Garfield County families
The Glenwood Springs Post Independent recently wrapped up a four-part series highlighting the challenges so many local parents face in finding adequate child care.
Our journalists worked on the series for weeks, conducting hours of interviews, research and more to offer readers the most complete picture in years of the unmet need for child care as well as some potential solutions to improve things.
So, why did we choose child care for this series? It’s simple: whether or not you’re a parent, the developmental wellbeing of our children impacts all of us. Positive outcomes in youth have been associated with reading comprehension, graduating on time and further success as an adult.
It also benefits a child’s parents. Career opportunities can be missed, hours and wages flattened and benefits missed as parents end up having to fill child care gaps on their own.
Faced with this reality, many Garfield County parents are taking the village approach to child care and creating networks of like-minded parents to help share the child care load within their homes. Groups like Valley Settlement and Early Childhood Network are working to support these groups through education and more. For some, such as Parachute resident Roxana de la Rosa, the experience inspires them to develop their own child care business.
Still, the number of child care professionals in Colorado lags far below where the need is. The factors are many: the COVID-19 pandemic made child care more difficult but low pay, numerous regulations and more were already challenging care providers. It all adds up to a high cost of business — and in turn a very high cost for parents lucky enough to find child care.
The good news is some state lawmakers are working to find solutions for Colorado parents. Tax exemptions, credits and special district rule changes are all up for consideration at this year’s legislative session. Many of the bills under consideration have both Republican and Democratic support, and it’s good to see both sides of the aisle recognize the need to do more to help child care businesses and parents.
Some might be concerned that tax exemptions and more could merely end up padding the bottom line for child care businesses instead of easing the pocketbook burden for parents, and we agree a problem is unlikely to be solved by tax credits alone.
But the problem is very real and very felt by parents throughout Garfield County. It’s myriad causes are unlikely to be solved by one magic-bullet policy, either.
Federally, Congress and President Joe Biden could do a lot to help parents directly by bringing back advance child tax payments. Part of the American Rescue Plan passed in early 2021, the policy saw parents receive monthly payments depending on their income and age and number of children. Those stopped in December 2021 but the general idea has bipartisan support.
Bipartisan support by no means guarantees Congress will act on it, but our state lawmakers could. States have previously enacted one-time payments to residents, and Colorado should begin talking about how a standing payment to parents might look.
But even if they pass a similar version of the federal credit, it is unlikely to solve the problem on its own. We’ll still need to figure out how to recruit more child care workers, how to improve support for care networks, how to allow for more child care facilities to open and more.
Progress won’t ever be 100% but we owe it to our Garfield County families to try.
The Post Independent editorial board members are Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Mark Fishbein and Danielle Becker.
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