GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — In an effort to assist families and childcare facilities, The Partnership for Children and Families (PCF) launched BridgeCare last week. BridgeCare is a user-friendly, web-based tool that connects local families with available childcare openings. In addition to this, it also allows providers to market their programs, highlight services and staff, and manage enrollment.

Mesa County isn’t the only place BridgeCare is being implemented. Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Delta, Ouray, San Miguel, San Juan, Dolores, Montezuma, and La Plata counties will all be participating in BridgeCare.

The need for this program is paramount in Mesa County which is seen as a childcare desert. That distinction is based on the fact that there is only one licensed childcare slot for every three children ages 0-5 in the area. Over the last four years, childcare availability has grown by 20% but the pandemic resulted in an unprecedented 8% loss in capacity and providers within the county.

PCF, Mesa County’s early childhood council, and its partners will use real-time data from BridgeCare to determine how many additional childcare slots are still needed.

PCF Director Stephanie Bivins had the following remarks, “Eighty-five percent of all brain development happens by the age of three. Early care and school readiness impact the trajectory of our future generations. BridgeCare will transform how our child care providers and families find each other. This tool will help us improve the entire child care landscape in Mesa County. We want every family to have what they need.”

PCF has been tasked by the state to respond to local needs and conditions to increase the accessibility of early childhood services.

BridgeCare gives families options to search for openings based on important variables, such as proximity to work and weekend availability. Families can search for childcare openings at http://childcare.mesacountypcf.org/. Providers on the other hand can set up a profile and manage their program at http://providers.mesacountypcf.org/.