A group of businesses, parents, governmental organizations and others is working to increase the availability of quality and sustainable childcare for kids with parents that live/work in Pitkin County. The Childcare Capacity Planning Committee recently completed a childcare survey as part of their efforts to further understand the issue and received more than 350 responses from around the Roaring Fork Valley.
“Perhaps what was most positive, in terms of survey results, is that a whopping 70 percent of survey respondents told us they felt their employers were family friendly,” said Shirley Ritter, Kids First director. “The Number One reason that was given was that their employers were ‘flexible,’ and that’s a fairly low-cost and easy way to help the issues around childcare for working parents.”
Respondents also desired financial assistance for childcare and guaranteed spots in childcare as other top ways to help them as employees.
In September of 2009, there were only 24 licensed spaces for infants in Pitkin County, and yet in 2008, Aspen Valley Hospital recorded roughly 300 births. And survey respondents, most of which lived and worked in Aspen, estimated their households would be growing in the next five years.
Of the respondents, 60 percent indicated that a lack of childcare would affect their ability to work or stay in the valley.
“Not surprisingly, when asked which factors would most influence their decision to leave the valley, 53 percent cited the ability to buy a home, but 55 percent cited the availability or cost of childcare as a main reason to leave,” Ritter said. “Childcare is very much a workforce and an economic issue in this community.”
Childcare, particularly infant childcare, is not a money-making business in Aspen, with viability proving an impossibility without some sort of subsidization. The Childcare Capacity Planning Group is working on ways to develop a long-range plan to address childcare capacity using community representation and fostering partnerships among several employers/businesses to address the serious shortage of childcare spaces, specifically for the infant and toddler ages.
The Childcare Capacity Planning Committee was convened by Kids First and the City of Aspen. The group plans to continue it work and will be reaching out to the community through other mechanisms as it moves forward.
Click here for an executive summary and a copy of the survey. For more information, call 970-920-5363.