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Valley Settlement’s R.V. brings education, resources to neighborhoods for in-home childcare providers

valley settlement RV
Caroline Llanes
/
Aspen Public Radio
Valley Settlement’s Development and Communications Director Sally Boughton (far left) and Executive Director Maria Tarajano Rodman (far right) hold a ribbon for Kenia Pinela, director of programs and innovations, and Sherri Goodwin, a sponsor of the RV, to cut at June Park in El Jebel Mar. 13, 2023.

Pueden encontrar la versión en español aquí

Local nonprofit Valley Settlement has a new mobile resource vehicle for its “Families, Friends, and Neighbors,” or FFN, program.

Part of MANAUS, another local nonprofit, Valley Settlement was started as a way to address the needs of the fast-growing, low-income immigrant community in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The FFN program provides training and resources to informal, in-home childcare providers—who are often friends, families, and neighbors.

That education includes early childhood development, routines, and nutrition. FFN family educators also screen kids who may need additional support or resources, such as for developmental delays.

Valley Settlement’s vehicle was unveiled in a gathering at June Park in El Jebel on Monday, March 13. It’s a retrofitted R.V., with its kitchen intact, and space in the back for kids to play and storage space for toys and educational tools.

That way, childcare providers can get an education on topics like nutrition and early childhood development while kids have access to gross-motor toys and can play under supervision.

VS RV interior 1
Caroline Llanes
/
Aspen Public Radio
The R.V. has a play space for children in the back, as well as plenty of storage.

Kenia Pinela is Valley Settlement’s director of programs and innovation. She said it can be isolating caring for kids at home by yourself most of the day.

“But we’d be able to come into a neighborhood, bring the providers that live in that neighborhood together, and just have a space where they’re able to network, get to know each other, and at the same time, be able to learn about a different topic, and have the children here in a safe space,” she said.

Sally Boughton is Valley Settlement’s director of development and communications. She said the vehicle fits a variety of needs.

“We also kept the kitchen in the R.V., so we could do some education around snacktime with children, making healthy food on a budget,” she said. “And so that’s going to be our kind of nutrition classroom.”

VS RV interior 2
Caroline Llanes
/
Aspen Public Radio
The front of the RV has seating space for FFN providers and family educators, as well as a kitchen space.

Pinela said another barrier the vehicle is hoping to address for these childcare providers is transportation.

“Some of them don’t drive, some of them don’t know how to drive, some of them don’t have two vehicles in their home,” she said. “And so throughout our program, though we’ve tried to eliminate many barriers, transportation has been one that has been difficult for us.”

FFN team
Caroline Llanes
/
Aspen Public Radio
Kenia Pinela (far right) poses in front of the R.V. with five of the FFN program’s family educators, who go into homes to provide support and resources for in-home childcare providers.

Boughton said it’s been hugely empowering to see people recognize the role that FFN childcare providers play.

“I think people are really focused on childcare now, which is so important, especially in an economy like ours, where parents need to work,” she said. “FFN providers have been in our community and part of our community for generations, but have never really been recognized for the very important roles they play in the lives of our young families.”

Pinela said she’s excited for the future of the FFN program, which includes working further with parents and kids in their development, along with providers. She also wants to help providers who want to become licensed with the state do so.

“There’s multiple barriers to accessing a license, if you want to receive your license,” she said, “It’s really exciting for us that legislation has changed, and that it is now allowing for some of those barriers to being really truly eliminated, and if they want to become licensed, then we want to be able to build those supports for people to be able to have access to that, if that’s what works for them and their family.”

Caroline Llanes is a general assignment reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering local news and City of Aspen-based issues. Previously, she was an associate producer for WBUR’s Morning Edition in Boston.