Promoting the health and development of children, families and child care staff is a priority for King County. Multiple programs are dedicated to healthy and safe environments for children to ensure their education and well-being. One standout program is the Child Care Health Program within Public Health.
The program includes a team of public health nurses, a dietician, mental health consultants and a community health worker who delivers Child Care Health Consultations (CCHC) to child care providers throughout the community. This team has been providing these CCHC services in King County for over 30 years.
“In my work I can help to impact the optimal growth and development of our county’s youngest citizens,” said Sara Rigel, Program Manager for Child Care health. “We can also help with early identification of children with special health or behavioral needs and help kids get on track towards early success in life.”
Sarah has been with the county since 2012. She oversees two units in the Community Health Services Division at Public Health, the Child Care Health program and the School Based Partnerships team. She supervises both teams and ensures that work is carried out directly in the community or through a network of partner providers.
The Child Care Health Program services include everything from consultation and technical assistance for developing child care programs and education for child care providers to classroom observations to identify children at risk and collaboration or referral to other regional programs.
“So many of the young children in our county spend the majority of their days with a caregiver other than their parent,” said Sara. “There is great opportunity to support those caregivers and the children where they spend their time.”
Like other CCHC based programs nationwide, Public Health follows best practices set out in Caring for Our Children, the commonly-accepted standards and best practice guidelines created and maintained by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association. The practice of integrating CCHC into child care settings is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure that complex health concerns, such as determining safe sleep policies, developing care plans for children with chronic medical conditions, or responding to infectious disease outbreaks, are informed by health care professionals.
The work of the Child Care Health Program to meet the needs of children, families and their caregivers can be challenging at times. Sara explains that by implementing these CCHC policies in their work the team is able to build strong, trusting relationships with the community, and share health and development expertise, strategies to ensure injury prevention, assessments of child health needs, infant-family mental health support, and connections to community resources.
“The youngest people in King County are among our most vulnerable,” Sara said. “We have a great opportunity to intervene early and provide children with a safe and healthy care environment in which they will thrive.”
“Quality early learning contributes to long term academic success and the opportunity to have a fulfilling adulthood. “
For more information, visit the Public Health Child Care Health Program website.