It’s clear that many Weld County children are growing up in challenging circumstances:
- Weld County’s child population has the second fastest rate of growth in Colorado.
- Over a quarter of pregnant women (26.5%) do not receive early prenatal care.
- 24% of births are to single women; 16% are to women without a high school diploma/GED.
- 13.5% of children under 18 live in poverty; in east Greeley/Evans it is 1 in 3.
- For every two children that need child care in Weld County, there is only one licensed child care space available.
- 50% of school aged youth qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
- As of 2019, over 3/5 of fourth grade students (39%) did not meet or exceed expectations in learning to read.
Why does all this matter to me? There are at least five reasons…
- Prolonged “toxic stress” disrupts proper brain development and can contribute to lifelong difficulties. One in 12 Weld County children aged 0-5 has experienced two or more adverse childhood experiences, including poverty, food insecurity, lack of health care, teenage parents, frequent change of residence, and more.
- Parents in challenging circumstances who are unable to be their child’s first and best teacher will not teach the skills their children need for school and lifelong success.
- Children being cared for by caring adults in nurturing, safe homes or quality child care settings is critical if young ones are to become well-adjusted teenagers and adults, good neighbors, good employees, and good long-term Weld County citizens.
- By fourth grade, children should have reading skills for learning; those who have difficulty reading and writing sufficiently by the end of third grade will have trouble succeeding. It is critical that by the end of third grade children can read.
- Compared to high school graduates, a dropout’s increased need for social services and greater likelihood of going to jail costs taxpayers a lifetime average of $292,000.
The Weld County Early Childhood Council (WCECC) works to ensure that all children are valued, healthy and thriving by focusing on the whole child. The WCECC does this by utilizing the Early Childhood Colorado Framework to:
- Educate Weld County’s citizens on the importance of prenatal health care, early childhood development and support for young children through marketing and outreach efforts.
- Strengthen the existing network of programs serving children prenatal to age 8, in an effort to better coordinate the delivery of services. Where appropriate, new programs are created and/or improvements are made to prevent service gaps or duplication within the system.
- Support licensed and exempt child care providers to create high quality care environments.
- Participate in a state-wide network of councils and a place for collaboration on county-wide early childhood development efforts.
“Child care providers are the bedrock of our community. Access to child care is essential to families ability to participate in the workforce. These providers whether they be child care centers, schools, or family child care homes help our children develop the mental, emotional, social, educational, and physical skills needed for success in school and life.”Nina Duran-Gutierrez, Weld County’s early childhood council chair