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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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La Vida Institute helps parents find child care

Parents who seek safe, appropriate child-care services throughout the year or have special child-care needs during the holiday season can get help from a free resource and referral service of La Vida Institute in Las Cruces.



Corie Britton, 5, left, and Maggie Taylor, 4, who attend A Children's Home child-care center, try out the tricycles at La Vida Institute's toy lending library. (NMSU photo by Michael Kiernan)

"Only parents can decide what they prefer with regard to child care, but we can help," said Marcia Kitzmiller, La Vida program specialist.

La Vida has a database of more than 125 child-care providers. The institute, administered through New Mexico State University's College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, is funded by a state Department of Children, Youth and Families grant. For the public's convenience, the institute is located off campus at 255 W. Hadley.

La Vida's database includes child-care providers in Las Cruces and surrounding communities, ranging from day-care and Head Start centers to individuals who offer care in their homes.

"There are many choices -- large group, small group, one on one, mixed age, same age," Kitzmiller said. "We urge parents to carefully interview and check references before leaving a child in care."

The database includes the names of licensed child-care providers or those seeking licensure. When adding providers to the database, La Vida requires them to attend at least six hours of professional training at the institute. A La Vida staff member also visits each site.

Parents fill out a form to provide information such as where they live or work, their child's age and days and times care is needed. While La Vida usually refers parents to several providers, it doesn't make recommendations.

Since La Vida began offering the service a year ago, the demand has grown. Up to 50 families a month are given at least three referrals, Kitzmiller said. The highest demand is for infant care, she said.

The service is needed and appreciated by both parents and people who offer child care, Kitzmiller said.

Sandee Wimbley, owner of A Children's Home child-care center in Las Cruces, said La Vida has referred several parents to her. "The parents know I meet all the requirements," Wimbley said. She and her staff have participated in La Vida's training for providers. And she takes advantage of a lending library of toys and books open to parents and providers.

Wimbley brings children to the institute in small groups. "They play and check out two or three things. Parents say, 'What a nice piece of equipment,' and I say, 'That's from the institute.'"

La Vida also has free publications for parents on what to look for in quality child care. Infants, for instance, should receive plenty of individual attention. Care givers should keep them in sight at all times and talk, sing and read to them. Toddlers need safe, loving environments that allow them to explore.

La Vida Institute serves Dona Ana, Sierra and Otero counties. The institute partners with other community agencies that serve families.

For more information call (505) 527-1149 or toll free (877) 527-1168.

Photo is available at
http://kiernan.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/La Vida kids.jpg.
For a print, call (505) 646-3221.
CUTLINE: Corie Britton, 5, left, and Maggie Taylor, 4, who attend A Children's Home child-care center, try out the tricycles at La Vida Institute's toy lending library. (NMSU photo by Michael Kiernan)

Rita A. Popp
Dec. 12, 2000