Help is here: Care About Childcare offers resources, referrals, summer activities

Photo by Yobro10/iStock/Getty Images Plus; St. George News

ST. GEORGE — With most students in Washington and Iron counties wrapping up school this week, many parents are finding themselves either wondering what they are going to do with their kids or possibly considering a change in child care services.

Fortunately, Care About Childcare is here to offer free resources and referrals. They have even put together a “Summer Activity Guide 2017” for 10 Southern Utah counties.

Care About Childcare is a program funded through the Child Care and Development Fund through the Utah Department of Workforce Services and the Office of Child Care. While the program helps parents throughout the state, the Southern Utah branch is housed by the Five County Association of Governments.

Carrie Sigler, director of Care About Childcare @ Five County, said one of their biggest goals is to help parents understand what options they have.

“We can’t recommend one (facility) or the other,” Sigler said, “but what we do is educate them on what to look for. That’s probably one of the most important things we do.”

Many parents call and say they just want to know which child care provider is the cheapest, Sigler said. However, even though cost has to be a consideration, that shouldn’t be the final determinant, she said.

“If it’s your child, you’re going to want the best possible thing that you can afford,” Sigler said, “so let me give you a little bit of information on what to look for. Let me send you a check sheet or some questions to ask as you go and interview childcare providers.”

Even though Care About Childcare won’t make specific recommendations, they still play a very active role in improving the quality of child care in Utah in general.

“We work with providers. We help them to better their program,” Sigler said. “We go in, we do one-on-one mentoring, we give grants. We help them with issues they might have, like biting or parent issues, or writing possibly even a parent newsletter.”

In addition to helping parents, Care About Childcare does all of the training for the Child Care Professional Development Institute, a career ladder for child care programs. As part of this, Sigler said, they also help child care providers get their Childcare Development Associate credential.

“When you get your CDA credential, that is a national credential,” she said. “We’re putting, right now just in Southern Utah, probably about 75 people through CDAs, which is absolutely amazing to see in our area because we’re considered rural.”

Another way Care About Childcare works to improve child care in the area is the annual “Southern Utah Child Development Conference,” which will be held at Dixie State University in late September.

The conference is a collaboration between several different agencies, Sigler said, including Head Start, The Learning Center for Families, and the Title I and special education preschools.

While the conference is open to anyone in the community, including parents who just want to learn tips on dealing with their own children, the conference is primarily geared toward early childhood educators working with children between the ages of infant to eight years old.

Sessions and speakers will focus on more than 40 topics, from teaching STEM activities to stress reduction.

“If you can prepare yourself and if you can take care of yourself, that means you can take care of the children better,” Sigler said.

For parents who aren’t necessarily looking for child care but rather perhaps trying to find out what sort of summer camps or activities are available for their children, Care About Childcare has put together a “Summer Activity Guide 2017,” which features activities in the counties of Washington, Iron, Beaver, Garfield, Kane, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier and Wayne.

While all of these activities can be found online, Sigler said parents are still welcome to call them and ask questions.

“It’s almost like looking for childcare,” she said. “They may want to call us and say, ‘Hey, this is what my needs are. Can you help me with those needs?’”

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