FARMINGTON — For at least one of Farmington's social service providers, a key to addressing the area's social ills begins in early childhood.
Barbara Tedrow, founder of A Gold Star Academy and Smiling Faces, attended Thursday's Comprehensive Homeless Assistance Providers meeting at the Farmington Civic Center to raise support for the child care facility's expansion into Aztec. A Gold Star Academy and Smiling Faces are both Farmington child care centers that serve low-income families.
A zoning hearing will be held in Aztec on Monday to decide whether a similar child care facility will be built in Aztec, Tedrow said. If city officials give their approval, Tedrow's organizations are slated to receive $195,000 in additional state funding.
"This will give us funding (to serve) 60 additional children," Tedrow said.
Smiling Faces currently serves 80 children and A Gold Star Academy serves 140 children, she said.The Comprehensive Homeless Assistance Providers group holds monthly meetings that bring together regional social service organizations and law enforcement representatives to collaborate on addressing community issues.
Whether they focus on homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, childhood development or domestic violence, San Juan County's social service organizations can work together to enhance each other's programs and initiatives, Tedrow said.
"It's not just child care, it's early learning," she said, speaking about her Smiling Faces facility in the south end of Farmington. "We service probably 90 percent low-income families."
Both A Gold Star Academy and Smiling Faces receive grants from the state's Children, Youth and Families Department to provide pre-kindergarten education and services to local children from low-income households, she said.
"This year, we have been funded $730,000 to assist 220 children," Tedrow said.
One Farmington official says early childhood development is essential to addressing many issues in the area.
"That time period between zero and five is so critical," said Farmington City Councilor Dan Darnell. "I don't know the actual numbers, but based on income levels, we have a pretty high poverty rate. The need for these services tracks very closely with the poverty rate."
And the key to addressing many early-childhood related issues lies in identifying the population segments most in need of the services provided by organizations such as A Gold Star Academy and Smiling Faces, he said.
"Not everybody need extra help," Darnell said. "This program is focused on the need-base."