Jan 04, 2017Barton Chronicle
Nicole Haley
Craftsbury, Vermont— Last summer when Craftsbury’s only home-based child care provider closed her doors, Sierra Lowell joined a group of local community members who decided they needed to take matters into their own hands. 
“We had one local dad who was about to quit his job because he couldn’t find child care. We knew we needed to find a long-term solution,” Lowell recalled. 
Lowell and other local moms formed the Craftsbury Childcare Initiative with a goal of opening a new child care center that will offer high-quality early care and learning programs for up to 40 infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The Initiative consists of mothers looking for a long-term community solution and includes an early educator committed to working in the center.
In October, the Initiative won a $10,000 grant funded by the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and the Turrell Fund. Aly Richards, CEO of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children, said the Permanent Fund created the 0-5 Emergency and Innovation Fund, which is administered by the Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation, to support high-quality child care programs with emergency relief assistance and to fund innovative new services like the Craftsbury Childcare Initiative, as part of a Vermont funders collaborative.
“The Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children is on a mission to make high-quality, affordable child care a reality for every Vermont child who needs it by 2025. As we work toward long-term systemic change we also recognize communities are struggling to address child care challenges right now,” Richards said. 
Over 30 families responded to a child care needs survey, Lowell said, adding that there are over 100 children under age 5 in the Craftsbury area, driving the demand for local child care. In addition, several local businesses have employees with young families who struggle to find child care so they can work. 
In a letter of support for the Craftsbury Childcare Initiative’s grant application, Sterling College President Matthew Derr wrote: “Many of our employees have preschool age children. These families live locally but often have to drive 40 miles a day for childcare … A childcare center in Craftsbury would undoubtedly have the support of area businesses, nonprofits, and schools, including Sterling College.” 
Judy Geer, director of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, echoes Derr’s support: “The challenges of finding care—any care, not even quality care—are a constant source of frustration for our employees, and that ripples down to affect their ability to focus at work without worrying about their kids.” 
The frustrations families and businesses face in Craftsbury are being felt all over Vermont, said Richards, referencing a recent study by Let’s Grow Kids, one of the Permanent Fund’s key initiatives. The study, called “Stalled at the Start: Vermont’s Child Care Challenge,” found that almost 80% of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need care don’t have access to high-quality, regulated programs and 47% don’t have access to ANY regulated child care programs. The study, which also analyzed access at the county level, found the numbers were even worse when you look at infant care alone. In Orleans County, 94% of infants likely to need care don't have access to high-quality programs and 65% don't have access to ANY regulated programs. 
Richards said the Craftsbury Childcare Initiative’s collaboration with community partners made the project especially attractive to the Permanent Fund. “It’s refreshing and inspiring to see a local community like Craftsbury coming together and finding creative, local solutions to a statewide challenge,” Richards said. 
Lowell said support from local partners will enable the new center to offer children unique and enriching experiences including: access to local, organic produce for cooking projects and center-provided meals from Pete’s Greens; hands-on exploration of art, music and movement with The Art House; intergenerational programming with the Craftsbury Community Care Center and access to green space and trails at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Other partners supporting the project include: Sterling College, the Craftsbury Select Board, the Craftsbury Public Library, Building Bright Futures, the Vermont Department of Health and the Craftsbury School Board, in conjunction with Orleans South Supervisory Union. 
The group’s goal is to open a center-based child care program in September 2017.

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