United Way of Larimer County is partnering with the City of Fort Collins and Teaching Tree Early Childhood Learning Center to double Teaching Tree’s enrollment. Currently, Teaching Tree serves 101 children zero to five years old, but has a waiting list of over 300 infants and children.
“There is a critical shortage of childcare in Larimer County,” said Annie Davies, President and CEO of United Way of Larimer County. “Our community’s licensed childcare capacity is currently meeting only 26 percent of the need for children age birth to two years old and 64 percent of the need for children two to five years. Access to affordable childcare has long been a priority for United Way of Larimer County; this move allows us to make significant progress in addressing the acute childcare need.”
On December 4, the Fort Collins City Council approved an ordinance leasing the property at 424 Pine St. to Teaching Tree. United Way of Larimer County will terminate its current 20-year lease and relocate its 25 staff to the second floor of the building in early 2019 until a more permanent location is secured. Teaching Tree will renovate main floor offices to create six new classrooms that will serve an additional 114 children beginning in August 2019.
As a part of the planned relocation, United Way has leveraged community and donor connections to raise $250,000 to facilitate remodeling and building repairs. Teaching Tree is one of only four childcare providers in Larimer County with a Level 5 (out of five) rating from Colorado Shines, a division of the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Colorado Department of Education that rates, monitors and supports the improvement of early learning programs. Teaching Tree focuses on the care of low-income families and is one of only two nonprofits that offer early care and education with a sliding fee scale.
“We believe investing in youth is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the best way to ensure a strong economy and community,” said Davies. “Ninety percent of the brain’s growth occurs before age five and kindergarten readiness is a key component of our work in Larimer County. We are excited to be part of a project that will have an immediate impact on working parents and the youngest members of our community.” According to the Bell Policy Center Opportunity Handbook, with access to quality child care, parents are able to keep their jobs, miss fewer days at work, are more productive, and have significantly higher rates of participation in job training and advanced education. “This mission-based move is a dual-approach that will strengthen our community for generations to come,” said Davies.