Access to child care major factor in successful work force

Sarah Gray

Parents constitute a core part of the Mesa County work force, making child care essential to economic infrastructure.

When affordable, quality child care is available, parents and caregivers who want to join the work force may do so. Care also alleviates a major stressor for parents that allows them to focus on their work and increases productivity. Stable child care can lead to the success of a business and community as a whole.

Early childhood services not only affect the present work force, but future workers as well. We know that 85 percent of all brain development happens by the time a child turns 3. 

“Quality child care gets kids ready for school, leading to successful careers later in life. Early childhood services are crucial to the trajectory of our future generations,” said Stephanie Bivins, director of the Mesa County Partnership for Children & Families.

There are challenges, though, to finding dependable child care in the Grand Valley. Mesa County is considered a child care desert, meaning there’s only one licensed child care slot for every three children under the age of 5. The COVID-19 pandemic also affected child care, resulting in an 8 percent loss in providers and capacity in the county.

An effort underway will help connect local families with child care openings. Located at, BridgeCare offers a user-friendly tool that lets families search for openings based on certain criteria, like proximity to work and weekend availability. “BridgeCare will transform how our child care providers and families find each other. We want every family to have what they need,” Bivins said. The Mesa County Partnership for Children & Families and its partners will use real-time data from BridgeCare to understand how many additional child care slots are needed.

Universal preschool also will help families seeking early childhood services. Starting next year, 4-year-olds will be eligible for 10 free hours of licensed preschool per week. This comes after a state law was enacted to promote better coordination of early childhood services and school readiness. Partnering facilities will provide early childhood education with a high-quality curriculum. This will increase access to preschool and decrease costs for families. 

The Colorado Department of Early Childhood selected the Mesa County Partnership for Children & Families to implement universal preschool in Mesa County. Mesa  County Human Services will assist with connecting families to the existing Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, which helps subsidize the cost of child care.

BridgeCare will help connect families with preschool options once the universal preschool program is up and running. Families can expect to see updates on the program, including an implementation plan and applications. To join informational meetings or find other ways to get involved, contact Bivins at

Ensuring employees are aware of these resources in Mesa County constitutes an important step for local businesses. Parents need to know that while they’re at work, their children have a safe place to learn and grow. Access to sustainable child care in the community remains a major factor in helping employees and employers thrive.

Sarah Gray is a communication specialist with Mesa County Public Health. For additional information, call 248-6900 or visit