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Groups address child-care solutions

ANNE GROGAN, -Sierra Sun

A severe child-care shortage in Truckee has been recently recognized by local and county officials as an issue that must be addressed and remedied. Many people and organizations in Truckee, however, have already begun working to solve Truckee’s child-care problem.

“As a community, what should we be looking for in child care?” Paige Derdowski of Sierra Nevada Children’s Services asked. “There’s so much that could be done.”

The following list, provided by Derdowski, includes some of the ways people in Truckee are working to solve the local child-care shortage and to enhance the child-care programs currently in place.

– A group of licensed child-care providers in Truckee has formed an organization, the Truckee Family Child Care Association, which meets monthly. The association furnishes child-care providers with a support system and a networking base, as well as arranges educational workshops to enhance provider knowledge and education.

Some recent workshop topics include gardening with children, the importance of music in early education and brain development in children.

Recent discussions among providers at the meetings have included how to address the issue of parents who don’t pay child-care bills when due, how to create a stimulating environment for children and how to deal with biting children.

The association’s founder, Tammy Cocard, is also working to implement a mentoring program among child-care providers, placing less-experienced providers with more-experienced providers.

“Some people go into the business and have never really taken care of groups of children before,” Cocard said. “It can be overwhelming.”

Burn-out is a real issue among family-home providers, she said. The mentoring program will help alleviate burn-out by teaching new providers how best to organize and utilize space, how best to manage time, how to keep child-care records and more.

– Before-school programs exist at both Truckee Elementary and Glenshire Elementary schools. The program at Glenshire Elementary is operated through the Truckee-Donner Parks and Recreation District, Derdowski said, and includes after-school care as well.

– Children from Truckee Elementary requiring after-school care can travel by bus to the TDPRD site for an after-school program.

– Plans for a future low-income housing project in Truckee include building an on-site child-care facility to accommodate children living there.

– Some local employers, including SierraWest Bank and the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District, are helping parents cope with child-care expenses by implementing what is called a cafeteria plan. A cafeteria plan allows parents to estimate their monthly child-care expenses and have that amount removed from their pay before earnings are taxed. The employer pays the child care from those pre-taxed earnings and savings can amount to hundreds of dollars annually, Derdowski said.

– Molly Harrison of the Sierra Montessori School, which offers morning and afternoon half-day programs, has coordinated with child-care providers in the school’s vicinity, matching parents and caregivers with each other, so that parents can work full days.

– Head Start and State Preschool programs provide part-day educational programs for children of low-income families. Full-day care is not available but “wrap-around” programs are likely in the future. Head Start and state preschool programs provide health, nutrition and family-support services. Truckee’s Head Start program serves nearly 20 families of three- and four-year-old children.

Laurie Martin of the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District said a state preschool grant has been awarded for the Truckee area for an as-yet undetermined school site.

“We are working to develop more afterschool opportunities, both in Truckee and at the lake,” Martin added.

– The Sierra Teen Education and Parenting Program (STEPP) provides child care at Sierra High School to the children of teen parents working toward a high school diploma. The program accommodates children from six weeks to three years of age, is funded by the state and is licensed to accommodate 14 children.

STEPP’s educational program includes hands-on parenting practicum and parenting theory, as well as counseling groups and career guidance, Martin said.

– Sierra Nevada Children’s Services assists parents and child-care providers in making child-care decisions. The organization provides child-care referrals and guidelines on what to expect of a quality child-care program. Sierra Nevada Children’s Services also guides parents through the child-care subsidy enrollment process, helping to link eligible families to federal and state child-care funding.

The organization provides training workshops and educational conferences to child-care providers, as well as offering a free resource lending library with educational videos, books, toys and curriculum materials. Sierra Nevada Children’s Services also provides information on becoming a licensed child-care provider and offers nutrition education to providers.

Derdowski said Sierra Nevada Children’s Services is developing plans to help subsidize the continuing education of providers. As an example of a program that would be subsidized, she discussed a rigorous child-care provider accreditation program, in which professionals visit the home where care is provided, observe the provider in the work environment, counsel the provider in curriculum development and areas of special interest or observed need.

The program is very expensive, Derdowski said, but a provider’s interest in the program demonstrates a high-level of motivation and dedication to the child-care field that should be recognized and supported.

“We have some wonderful providers in this area,” she said.

Those providers work within various settings throughout the area.

– Truckee offers six licensed child-care centers with the combined capacity to care for 110 children. Thirty licensed family care homes are operated in Truckee and provide care to about 256 children daily. About seven license-exempt providers working in Truckee are voluntarily registered with Trustline, a California-based program that conducts background and fingerprint checks on all applicants.

– Grandparents, friends, neighbors, employers, employees and co-workers throughout Truckee are helping parents cope with the child-care issue.

“Parents need help in deciding who gets to spend those rare moments, those diamonds of time, with their children,” Derdowski said.

Sierra Nevada Children’s Services is here to help, she said, and is located in the Joseph Government Center or can be reached by phoning 587-5960.


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