Family, Friend and Neighbor project coming to Cortez

A childís brain begins to develop before birth, and more than 80 percent of brain development occurs before age 5, setting the foundation for all that follows. During this period of rapid brain development, every interaction a child has with adult caregivers makes an impression.The goal is to ensure high-quality; enriching interactions exist for every child, regardless of family income, race, ethnicity, geography and child care setting.

There will be a Southwest Colorado Family, Friends and Neighbors event in Cortez on Thursday, Sept. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church. Free dinner and childcare will be provided.

Qualifying participants include grandparents, aunts, friends and neighbors who care for children other than their own in their homes. Participants will receive a $20 stipend and a childrenís book. Please RSVP by Monday, Sept. 24 to Vangi McCoy at 749-7017 or mecc.coordinator@gmail.com.

The early childhood community in Colorado has worked for more than a decade to improve quality in early care and education. Much of the focus of these efforts has been on formal (licensed) child care settings, which comprise only part of the child care landscape.

The other critical part of the landscape is care delivered in informal settings, typically by family, friends and neighbors. Almost all children in Colorado will experience some form of family, friend and neighbor (FFN) care at some point before entering school.

Colorado is home to approximately 400,000 children under age 6, and 256,000 of these children live in families in which all available parents work.

Family, friend, and neighbor care differs from licensed care settings in many ways. Informal settings tend to be smaller and have lower child-to-adult ratios, allowing for quality interactions and individualized care. On the other hand, informal care providers might feel overstressed and in need of resources including educational materials, activities to engage in with children, or opportunities to improve their understanding of child development. Understanding the benefits and challenges of informal care is crucial to developing the networks and supports that will enable all Colorado children to receive the high-quality developmental experiences they need in early childhood.

Representatives from the statewide Family, Friend and Neighbor Project have joined forces with the Montelores Early Childhood Council for a conversation with FFN providers. FFN providers will have an opportunity to talk about the resources they can and canít access, if they feel adequately supported, or if they feel isolated. These conversations will play a key role in helping policymakers and early childhood professionals better understand this important part of early childhood care and education in Colorado.