Town and County honor ‘Week of the Young Child’

JACKSON, Wyo. — At the first Jackson town council meeting since spring break, Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen and the Jackson Town Council proclaimed April 10 through April 16 as the “Week of the Young Child.” The Town Council also recognized April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. 

The Teton County Board of County Commissioners voted on a similar resolution, proclaiming April 12-16 the “Week of the Young Child” during their regular meeting this morning April 13. 

The Town of Jackson proclamation honors “those committed to enhancing the lives of young children and their families and encourages all citizens to work to make an investment in early childhood education in our community.”

The purpose of the week is to, “recognize that healthy development and education of all children is the responsibility of all of us, and to recommit ourselves to ensuring that each and every child experiences the type of early environment – at home, at child care, at school, and in the community – that will promote their early development.” 

The Town Council and the Board of County Commissioners also pledged to support advocacy and education surrounding the topic. The proclamations outlined three areas of focus. They include supporting the efforts of organizations that support making Teton County an Early Learning Community, leveraging local state and federal investments, funding strategies, and revenue streams to support early childhood programming, and promoting prenatal to pre-k policies and coordination to improve child and family outcomes. 

According to the proclamations, “27% of children, 0-3 living in Teton County live below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. 16 million children ages birth to 3 in the U.S receive local government programs and services.”

On Monday, the Town Council and the Board of County Commissioners held a special joint information meeting to hear updates from human service directors. Two organizations provided updates specifically about child abuse and programs for young children. 

Teton Youth and Family Services Director of Accreditation and Licensing, Chris Moll provided an update from the organization. Moll discussed an increase in caseloads, he said,  “At our Hirschfield center program which is more of our prevention child abuse services, all of our therapists are at a maximum caseload, this is really new over the past year.” 

He also discussed a decrease in child abuse reporting locally. “We are seeing a lot of anxiety and depression, with kids, and it really relates to whats occurred over the last year which is an overall drop in child abuse reporting, on an average month the department of family services sees about 18 child abuse reports, starting last year when schools closed, last April they saw 2 reports, in May they saw 5.” 

“Those numbers have held pretty steady over the last year, largely because about 80% of those reports come from teachers and school counselors. So when we only have the kids in school part-time it makes it more difficult to have those eyes on those kids,” said Moll. 

Moll also discussed budget cuts, the organization is looking at about a 9% cut to their residential services from the Department of Family Services. 

“Another one of our significant funding sources is the Division of Victim Services which is through the Attorney General’s office and right out of the gate we took a 12% cut from them, there is legislation at the federal level that may restore some of that money but we will not see that in Wyoming if it is indeed restored for another 2-3 years,” he said. 

Faculty Director Patti Boyd from the Children’s Learning Center also provided an update, specifically about programs for infants and toddlers. She said the Childcare Department is at nearly 90% enrollment, but “we currently have about 200 people on the waitlist, of which the majority are parents of infants and toddlers which we have far fewer slots for,” said Boyd. 

“We had a cut of about 22% of the budget for infants and toddlers, we had notification of it earlier this year, it’s coming in the fiscal year which begins in July.” The program will also experience a $40,000 cut due to federal funding cuts, but because it is an unfunded mandate, “no matter what kind of funding the state gives us we are still mandated to give all the services and programs,” said Boyd.  

About The Author

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.

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