EDITORIAL: Caring for the Young, Part Eight

Read Part One

“Mass production”, “flow production” or “continuous production” is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly lines. Together with job production and batch production, it is one of the three main production methods.

— From Wikipedia

At the beginning of the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners’ regular meeting yesterday, May 2, chair Steve Wadley invited the audience to offer public comment about anything on their minds, provided it didn’t apply to an item on the meeting agenda.

For as long as I can remember, the BOCC chair has honored a tradition of allowing public comment at the beginning of each regular meeting. Since the BOCC typically meets twice a month, this amounts to 24 chances each year to compliment our three elected County leaders — or more likely, to complain to them — in a public setting. And for as long as I can remember, very few county residents have taken advantage of the opportunity, unless the community is in the midst of some local controversy that’s got the taxpayers all stirred up.

Personally, I hate to waste the chance to make public comment… since I’m usually sitting in the audience anyway, recording the meeting for a future Daily Post article.

Yesterday, I made the following comment:

“Good afternoon. I wanted to speak with you about the report that you got from the Early Care and Education Work Group. I’m going to be attending the Town Council meeting this evening, and they are going to be looking at funding another year of the ECE coordinator’s position. And I believe you will be getting that same request in the near future.”

Last year — as the BOCC is well aware — the Town and County each kicked in $10,000 to match a $10,000 grant from the El Pomar Foundation, to fund coordinator Jan Santopietro’s salary for 12 months. The ECE Work Group — mostly volunteers — is requesting the same level of funding for another year of research by their group. I spoke in support of that idea.

“I highly recommend that you do fund the coordinator’s position, because this [2017] report is incomplete, and we have another year’s work ahead of us, to get a report that tells us what the real situation is here [in Archuleta County.]

“On page 15 of the report, there were three models presented. If these models fully served up to 171 children, we are looking at $1.6 million in [annual] subsidies… half a million in subsidies… or three-quarters of a million in subsidies.

“And just below those numbers, it says: ‘Early care and education (ECE) for children 0 up to 5 years of age is provided by both home- and center-based providers… Both approaches are essential for meeting the need for ECE in Archuleta County.’  (You can download page 15 here.)

“But this report does not address home-based care. All of the models presented in this report were ‘center-based’ models very much like Seeds of Learning — and I think that’s no surprise, considering who was on the committee.

“So if the group does come forward asking for funding, please do fund this for another year, so we can find out if home-based care — which is half the cost of center-based care, according to this report — to find out if that is the most viable option for our community. To encourage home-based care — instead of building another $2 million facility that costs $12,000 per child per year to operate.

“So that’s my advice to the BOCC. Thank you.”

‘Home-based childcare’ also goes by the name ‘Family child care.’

From the Care.com website:

Parents choose family child care for a variety of reasons. It’s usually the least expensive form of child care. It offers a home-like setting, rather than a center one. Family child programs usually offer a mixed age group, with a collection of infants, toddlers and preschoolers, so it’s more like a family than a classroom.  This diversity can be a great learning environment for kids of all ages…

Let’s consider, for a moment, the industrial genius named Henry Ford. In the early 1900s, Mr. Ford revolutionized the production of automobiles by replacing skilled craftsmen with programmed machines that required very little training or skill to operate, and by making every automobile out of exactly the same interchangeable pieces. He also arranged the work so that each employee did the same, repetitive process hour after hour, day after day.

Efficiently was high. Worker satisfaction — the satisfying sense of carrying a project from beginning to a successful outcome — was non-existent, unless you count the weekly paycheck as a substitute for personal fulfillment.

The result was a relatively affordable automobile, and a mind-numbing existence for the individual worker on the assembly line.

Just as there are many ways to arrange the production of an automobile, there are many ways to arrange for the rearing of young children. Some arrangements are very much like an industrial assembly line, based on the idea that children should be segregated by age and educated according to a predetermined routine, to meet certain “standards.”

Other childcare arrangements are more, shall we say, “organic.”  They allow for accidents and surprises and creativity, and for interactions between individuals of different ages and with different interests and skills. They’re more like a “family” and less like an “assembly line.”

At the Town Council meeting last night, the Council did indeed approve a donation of $10,000 in taxpayer revenue towards the Early Care and Education Work Group, to fund another year of research.

Here, we are listening to Council member Nicole DeMarco:

“I appreciate the work the group has done, and my opinion is to approve the allocation. I would like to say, I spoke to some people who do home-based care, or have done home-based care, and they said the biggest obstacle is licensing. And I wonder if [coordinator Jan Santopietro] could take on the role of facilitating that, for people who are interested in doing home-based early care and education. Helping with licensing.”

Town Manager Greg Schulte noted that he’d done some research into the licensing issue, and said it seemed that the encouragement of home-based care would open up more ‘slots’ — and he didn’t see any reason why Ms. Santopietro couldn’t facilitate such an approach.

Council member John Egan:

“I want to thank Nicole for those comments. And Greg, I’m happy to hear your answer to this question. It seems like, for the home-based childcare providers, advocacy on our part could really make a big difference, in helping them get licensed. And if we can help facilitate that, I think it would really mean a lot to the community.”

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Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson founded the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 in hopes of making a decent living writing about local politics. The hope remains.