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Years of Tahoe Forest Hospital’s Children’s Center

Jeff Clemetson, Sierra Sun

Ten years ago, Tahoe Forest Hospital had a problem. When doctors, nurses or other staff had children, they would often opt to stay at home rather than go to work and leave their children at a child care facility.

To solve the problem, the hospital built the TFH Children’s Center – an on-site day care facility that for ten years has served parents’ and children’s needs alike. On Thursday, Oct. 11, the TFH Children’s Center will celebrate its tenth anniversary with an open house featuring music, food and presentations starting at 5 p.m.

“Our goal was to provide high quality child care for our employees,” said TFH administrator Larry Long. “Eventually we saw a need and opened it for the rest of the community.”

Construction on the Children’s Center building began in 1990 and was completed in the fall of 1991, Long said. The center’s building was specifically designed as a child care facility by the same architect who designed the Stanford Medical Center’s child-care facility.

Originally, the center was licensed to care for 64 children, but when the after-school program moved into its own building in 1995, the center was able to take in 40 more.

“What parents get out of (the center) is trust that their children are in a safe, educational, warm environment,” said Children’s Center director Rebekah Shurtleff. “What kids get out of it is they have a great time.”

The center offers services for infants through fifth grade. It houses two pre-school rooms, an infant room for children six weeks old to 18 months, a toddler room for children 18 to 30 months, a transition room for children 30 months and up and an after-school program for K-5 children.

Although the center started as a need for hospital employees who were unable to work after having children, the center has always offered its services to the public. Hospital employees have priority but employee children average only about 25 percent of the center’s capacity, Shurtleff said. The center takes up to 12 infants, 12 toddlers, 12 transition students and 26 pre-school children. The after-school program takes up to 40 children.

Because of the center’s popularity and the fact that it is the only day care in Truckee that offers infant and toddler care, there is a one-year waiting list for non-hospital employee children.

“There’s a huge need and a tremendous waiting list,” Shurtleff said

One of the reasons for the center’s popularity is its wide range of programs, activities and facilities. TFH Children’s Center boasts lots of field trips, toys of all shapes and sizes for all age groups, swing sets and access to Billy Rose Park. Educational programs at the Children’s Center include ballet classes, visits to and from the library and computers.

“I think you have to experience fun things, not just school stuff,” said Lizzy Ramos, an eight-year employee of the toddler room. Ramos said she enjoys working with toddlers because “they are the hardest to work with.”

Even though they are sometimes difficult, Ramos said she most enjoys taking her toddlers on trips to places like Squaw Valley and the rodeo.

One of the most popular offerings at the Children’s Center is the after school program.

“The kids have a ball, they beg to take our program,” Shurtleff said.

Especially in the summer, when the after-school program works with Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District to take students hiking, camping, fishing, even kite-flying.

This past summer, the center received a $1,000 grant from the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation to pay for transportation on the Tahoe Trolley and beach passes. During the school year, students are bused from their elementary schools.

Grant money for child-care facilities is a relatively new source of funding. Recently, Shurtleff said, tobacco money from Proposition 10 has helped the cash-strapped child-care industry.

“I haven’t seen this type of money poured into child care ever,” she said. “Child care is hard to make ends meet, let alone make any money at.”

Shurtleff said the center tries to keep costs below county averages for child-care programs. Fees did go up this year due to inflation and rising utility costs, she said.

Rates are based on the age of the child and how many days he or she will be there per week. The center also offers drop-ins for $35 for younger kids and $30 for older ones, but only when occupancy and staffing permits.


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