KeepHealthCare.ORG – Day care dilemma | Western Colorado
The largest child care facility in Mesa County will close next week, leaving parents scrambling to find day care in an area already identified to have a shortage.
Families who take their children to Kinder Haus Learning Center in Fruitvale were notified they had only days left to bring their children to the facility, which is being sold.
Kinder Haus owners Christi and Mike Bocconcelli let parents know the business was being sold in a letter last week, notifying them they had selected a buyer after looking for more than two years and the parents could expect a smooth transition in mid-July.
“We wanted to make sure the right people purchased so we could continue to watch our dream of making Kinder Haus the best center in town,” they wrote. “We believe we have found that fit.”
The Bocconcellis chose Rocky Mountain Head Start as a buyer partially because they wanted their staff to have benefits, something they haven’t been able to afford in the 19 years they’ve owned the business. They also hoped staff would receive higher pay and continued training and education under the new ownership. They believed the business would continue to operate and serve the current clients, so they didn’t notify families the sale was happening earlier, Christi Bocconcelli said Tuesday. Representatives of Rocky Mountain Head Start did not return phone calls or emails Tuesday seeking comment.
Kinder Haus is under contract to sell to Rocky Mountain Head Start and the transaction is scheduled to be finalized Monday, she said. But now the Bocconcellis know two types of closings will be happening that day.
The current owners of Kinder Haus first heard the child care center would be closed from a representative at the Mesa County Department of Human Services, who told them families receiving child care subsidies needed to be notified the child care center was closing so they could find placement elsewhere. After the sale, the location is expected to close and reopen as a Head Start preschool location within weeks. That means only children between the ages of 3 and 5 who meet low-income requirements will be eligible to attend.
Currently, Kinder Haus has the largest capacity of any licensed child care center in Mesa County — 168 children ages 1 to 12 are enrolled — though most days the average number of kids at the center is 120, according to Christi Bocconcelli.
Finding out the center would close after the sale and reopen as a Head Start preschool was a shock to the Kinder Haus owners, Christi Bocconcelli said.
“We know that this does not help all the families in the struggle to find child care and we are truly sorry for our part in this,” she and her husband wrote in a second letter distributed to families this week.
Not only is Kinder Haus the largest licensed child care center in Mesa County, she said about 75 percent of its clientele qualify for reduced-cost child care through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, administered through the county Department of Human Services. Mesa County Workforce Director Curtis Englehart said as soon as his staff learned the facility was closing, they started working to help families find placement for children. For families receiving subsidized child care, not having a place for kids to go hampers their work schedules, making it difficult to make ends meet.
Kinder Haus’ closure comes amid efforts to create thousands of new, high-quality licensed child care slots in a campaign called Child Care 8,000, launched last spring by Mesa County Public Health.
The county has about 4,000 child care slots and the goal is to double the availability to 8,000 spaces by 2020, which represents about 60 percent of the population of kids age 12 and younger in Mesa County. The campaign is working with current child care providers to expand capacity, access training for staff and cultivate a ready workforce and encourage more home day care providers to become certified.
According to Colorado Shines, a quality assurance program that publishes ratings for child care facilities on its website at coloradoshines.com, Kinder Haus was one of only two child care centers in the Grand Valley that has at least a 4 rating. The only other local child care facility with an equal rating is Wishes and Dreams Child Learning Center, which has a capacity of 100 children. A 4 rating is considered higher quality, indicating the facility has demonstrated an advanced level of training and meets standards for its learning environment, promoting health for children, developing partnerships with families and has regular professional development and training for staff.
Anyone seeking child care can call the Colorado Shines Child Care referral line at 1-877-338-2273.