Early Childhood News January 2020
Baby with words

Welcome 2020!

This seems like a good time to let you know what a difference our advocacy for early childhood education has made on the state level, and for some of our local school districts! You all know about the legislation that funded full-day Kindergarten across Colorado; did you know that in addition to the benefits for Kindergarten children, this legislation re-allocated some funding from E-Cares that had been used either for preschool for at-risk 4 year old’s or for Kindergarten full-day funding. This created more spaces for those 4-year-olds!  I learned that Garfield District 16 now serves 32 Head Start children, 29 E-care and 70 Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) children. Thanks to Nancy Taylor for those numbers! I also learned from Emily Kielmeyer that Garfield RE2 expanded preschool programming at 5 of their 6 elementary schools (New Castle to Rifle), now being able to serve 254 preschool children! Emily credits the tremendous dedication of their preschool directors in making this a reality.
This is a major victory for these children, their families, and our communities. We’ll be sharing more as we get into the 2020 Colorado legislative session – which starts January 8! For now please know that you can bookmark https://leg.colorado.gov/, and from there check out proposed bills, your legislators, and much more. Just think what we could accomplish for children if we all spoke up this year!
Shirley Ritter
Kids First Director

Kids Flash

Colorado Children’s Campaign
January 3, 2020

Each week the Colorado Children's Campaign emails a weekly news flash.  Click on this link to register to receive this email - Colorado Children's Campaign 

2020 Legislative Priorities
The Colorado Children’s Campaign serves at the leading voice for kids at the state Capitol and in communities across the state. In our 35-year history we’ve worked with policy makers from every corner of the state and every political perspective to improve the well-being of Colorado kids. Children’s issues aren’t partisan, and we’ve proven that we can develop innovative solutions when we work together.

As the 2020 session of the Colorado General Assembly begins, we’ve prepared the best available data and research on child well-being to help advocates and policy makers advance—and protect—policies and investments that remove barriers for kids and families.


Education: Fair Local Share for K-12
Establishing a uniform mill levy for property owners would fix an unintended consequence of Colorado’s inflexible tax system. It would ensure the quality of a child’s education, and the resources that schools can access, don’t depend on where a child lives. The majority of taxpayers will see little or no increase in property taxes. For more information, visit FairShareforK12.co.

Early Childhood: Workforce Education and Career Pathways
Colorado’s working parents can’t get to work without early childhood educators. Improving career and education pathways for these high-demand jobs will catapult qualified, aspiring early childhood educators into classrooms by streamlining licensing, providing scholarship and grants, and establishing an apprentice program.

Early Childhood: Mental Health Consultation
The foundation of mental wellness is established in the early years of life. We can ensure that the many providers and caregivers that work with children have the support they need to foster healthy young minds and promote social and emotional well-being with consultation with experts.

Please go to the web page to read more ....... Colorado Children's Campaign


Tis the season for spreading among other things...illness.

In the recent news, Colorado has had outbreaks of norovirus, pertussis, measles, and flu is on the rise.  In some ways it sounds like we live in disease riddled petri dish.  At times like this when people spend more time gathered together inside, in close proximity with others, disease circulates easily from person to person in the air, through contaminated surfaces and directly on our dirty hands when we touch our eyes, nose and mouth.

Do not fear, there are ways you can combat illness and fight infection from spreading!

The best ways to stop the spread of infection are through good hand washing and staying home when you are sick.  In child care there are 3 main reasons to keep sick children and staff home.

  1. The child or staff member does not feel well enough to take part in usual activities. For example, a child is overly tired, fussy, or will not stop crying.
  2.  A child needs more care than teachers and staff can give while still caring for the other children.
  3. The symptom or illness is on the “How Sick is Too Sick” information sheet regarding when children and staff should stay home from school or child care. 

This December, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has updated the “How Sick is Too Sick” reference sheet that childcares use for illness exclusion criteria.  Also this year, the CDPHE updated the Infectious Disease Guidelines for Child Care Providers and Health Consultants.  Remember to use these resources along with your child care health consultant and local public health department when you have illness concerns or questions.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year!
Robin Strecker RN
Child Care Health Consultant
Kids First

Early Childhood Network logo

2020 has arrived and we have so much to look forward to!

Early Childhood Network had an exciting and productive 2019.  With so much to look back on, a few of our key accomplishments included ….

…. Hiring a new coach to work with legally exempt childcare providers. 
…. Teaching two Expanding Quality in Infant and Toddler Care in Spanish.  Along with our 3rd course in English, we had 58 teachers receive their certificate of completion in 2019!
…. Partnering with Valley Settlement to provide Child Development Associate certificates.
…. Hosting our most successful Casino night yet while tons of fun was had by all!
….  Administering the financial aid assistance for Western Eagle County
…. And, most importantly, coaching ECE teachers so they can enrich the lives of the children and families they provide care for.

We are extremely grateful for all the opportunities we had in 2019 and now all of us at Early Childhood Network are looking forward to 2020.  We have many thoughts and ideas on how to continue to expand the capacity, quality and accessibility of early care and education locally.  We know it is going to be a GREAT year.
With all that said, the staff at Early Childhood Network would like to wish you a very happy, healthy and productive 2020! Along with us, make it your best year yet!
Happy New Year from the Staff at ECN!
Joni Goodwin                          Kelly Esch                                   Rischma Buchanan
Executive Director                 Program Manager/Coach            Western Eagle Coach
Soira Ceja                               Brigitte Buckingham                   Kim Gorsett
FFN Coach                             Garfield Coach                            Administration Assistant

p: 970-928-7111
401 23rd Street, Suite 207 - Glenwood Springs, Co 81601

Image cup half full

Coaching Corner

with Megan Monaghan and Adley Kent

Educators: In 2020, Give Yourself Permission To Take Care of Yourself!

As early childhood educators, you know how much effort, love and time you put into caring for young children. You spend so much of your energy on caring for children, often times there's nothing left for you. This defies logic. You know that you need to feel your best to provide the best care, so why don’t you take the time for yourselves?
The answer is not so simple, and it’s different for each individual. The solution, however is basically the same for all early educators: if we take time for self-care, we will have more to give to others. Imagine your energy reserves as a big cup. You cannot keep giving from that cup if it is empty. So many teachers keep pushing on without caring for themselves and refilling their cup. No wonder so many teachers suffer from stress, burn-out, and leave the profession.

Here are 7 ways to avoid this struggle:

  1. Stop negative self-talk.  Ask yourself, “Would I say that to my best friend?” If not, try to think kinder thoughts of yourself.
  2. Make a list of things that bring you joy.
  3. Prioritize your time.
  4. Get outside.
  5.  Recognize when a co-teacher’s cup is empty and help them take a moment to refill it.
  6.  Create healthy relationships for a support system.
  7. Start a mindful practice. Mindfulness means being completely present in the moment. Mindful practices can include meditation, mindful tasting, mindful walks, listening to music mindfully, and mindful breathing. Our mental health consultant, Mia Wilson recommends the Smiling Mind App for short mindful exercise with children. Other apps include Calm and Headspace.

Let’s start 2020 with self-care as a top priority!



Child with snow
Winter playground
Kids First logo

Playground Winter Safety

The following are some commonsense items and areas of concern to look out for during the cold winter months.

  1. Fall prevention. Remember that fall safety surfaces such as a poured in place rubber surface or engineered wood fibers are frozen for much of the cold winter season and do not provide the same safety cushioning for fall protection that they provide during the warmer months.
  2. Do check all play equipment for missing hardware, large gaps, sharp edges, or other safety concerns.  Older plastic structures may crack or pull apart causing jagged edges or gaps that can catch loose clothing.  Metal may become so cold as to cause freezer type burns or stick to wet skin. 
  3. Walking surfaces can become very icy and slick on elevated play equipment. 
  4. Make sure your playground has signage indicating the ages the play equipment is meant for; whether the playground is open for public use or only intended for the school’s children; warning of any safety hazards; and that adult/teacher supervision is advised.

Have great playground experiences in the winter but have vigilance for cold weather concerns.
Trevor Brown, CPSI
City of Aspen/Kids First

Garfiled County logo
Trainings for January and February
Kids First logo
Katherine and Shilrey
Aspen Family Connections Logo

Three Fundamental Truths about living in a Paradise

However you ended up in Aspen, and, let’s face it, most of us come from somewhere else, it’s our first Fundamental Truth that this Valley is one of the most extraordinary and special places in the world to live and bring up a family.  How often do you hear people say ‘we’re so blessed’ to live here?  Just stepping outside and seeing those mountains in the sunlight, can inspire feelings of exhilaration and awe.

Faced with that, admitting that living here might be problematic in any way seems almost ungrateful. After all, if you can’t be happy in this paradise, what’s wrong with you?

But of course, our second Fundamental Truth, is that the valley is a tough place in which to live, work and bring up kids.  It’s a remote rural area, with an impossibly high cost of living, limited housing options, seasonal employment and many other challenges.  Add to this mixture, the famous party culture, and levels of extreme wealth and consumption swilling around us, and you have a potential cocktail (a deliberate word choice) for substance use, mental health challenges, economic stress and family dysfunction - and even plain old blues.

It’s complicated enough for adults to cope with. Let’s imagine how much more confusing it is for children, witnessing and experiencing many of the same things, and doing so through the lens of a child.

And now add to the mix some newer ingredients that aren’t special to Aspen: top of the list, technology, which pervades all our lives but particularly those of children and teens. We’re barely beginning to understand its long-term impacts.  And then there’s anxiety and stress in the world at large, whether triggered by climate change, the political landscape or anything else, and we know from research that kids and teens experience stress and anxiety more profoundly than adults.

Luckily, there are some huge positives. This is a community with terrific resources, and, even more importantly, people who are smart enough to put them together to have maximum impact. Everywhere you look, there are incredible agencies and nonprofits working collaboratively.  Our own organizations are great examples of this kind of collaboration, and you can find it everywhere here, as a look at our schools, Senior Center, Police Department, Youth Center, local churches and so many others, will quickly show you.  This is joined-up thinking at its finest.

And then let’s consider our most important collaborative unit.  The family.

Our third Fundamental Truth is that there is no more important building block in every human’s life than the family.  Like any collaboration, families are complicated, messy and unique.  Since most of us have families, we sometimes take them for granted, and even reject or avoid them.

However, where kids are concerned, families represent our greatest opportunity – our magic bullet for success.  Families transmit skills, connection, trust, resilience, values and a soft place to land when things go wrong. That is why we place families – and the art of parenting - at the heart of our work in this community.

We believe that there are very few ‘bad’ parents.  We see hundreds of families who are just getting by and figuring it out day-by-day with their kids. People aren’t necessarily born knowing how to parent, any more than they’re born knowing how to drive a car – you might have good instincts, and an idea about how you think it should be done, based on your experience, but it’s a different thing doing it yourself.

So, let’s embrace that noble art of parenting. Given how tough the world is, and just like any other endurance event, we urge parents to skill themselves for the challenge.  Try out a Kids First parenting class, or an Aspen Family Connections workshop event. Talk to friends, peers and work colleagues and get their perspectives.  We already have so many opportunities for parents to learn from the experience of others and to navigate their own and their kids’ lives through the peaks and valleys of family life in the mountains - and are working on providing many more.

Family is everything whether you live in  a Paradise, or not – and that’s the truth.

                                   Shirley Ritter                                                    Katherine Sands
                                       Director                                                                 Director
                             Kids First/City of Aspen                                   Aspen Family Connections

American Lung Association logo
Monkey with inhaler

Learn How to Help Protect Children from the Impact of Secondhand Smoke

The American Lung Association is offering free training to organizations serving low-income families on electronic smoking devices, how to prevent secondhand smoke and aerosol exposure, and an introduction to asthma.  The training is offered in-person or online.  Topics include:

  • E-cigarette aerosol and secondhand smoke
  • Health impact of secondhand smoke exposure on children
  • Motivational interviewing techniques
  • Available local and statewide tobacco cessation resources and support
  • Basic information about asthma and how to manage it

Visit www.RaiseSmokeFreeKids.com for up-to-date resources on e-cigarettes, secondhand smoke, asthma, marijuana, and more!
Organizations who implement ONE Step are eligible for gift cards and other prizes.  Schedule your training today so we can all work together in creating safe and clean environments for children to grow up in.  If you have questions, please reach out to Valerie Steinmetz (Valerie.Steinmetz@Lung.org or 303-847-0279).

Adele congratulations
Resources for Early Childhood Providers
Eagle County Training
2020 Census infomration
2020 Census page 1
2020 Census page 2
Aspen Family Connection speakers
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