Child care options can be tricky in Wallowa County, and parents need all the help they can get. That’s where Brandy Shelton comes in.
“Every child deserves quality care,” said Brandy Shelton. “The most important job we’re ever going to have as individuals on this earth is to be a parent. And it’s the only job for which there isn’t required training.”
Shelton was recently hired as family and community advocate for Head Start in Enterprise and Wallowa, certifier for the Women Infants and Children Shelton is confident she’s been well-prepared for what the job with many hats will entail.
Her interest in children and mothers has been constant. She left Wallowa County for college and graduated from Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She then worked as program manager in a child care facility in Lewiston serving 70 to 100 children a day as she began her family.
In 2014 she moved back home to Wallowa County and spent two years with Building Healthy Families as the lead Early Start Head Start teacher. Along the way, she earned her master’s degree in Early Education through Arizona State University.
“I love growth and development,” she said. “Every child is a product of their environment, so the more we educate parents and providers the more that product is going to be ready for what the world has to offer when they step out into public school. And the expectations in kindergarten are so high.”
She helps Head Start families plan their way through the coming years as parents — answering questions, understanding family history, discussing budget concerns, setting goals and showing them what assistance is available.
Shelton’s son, Sorrin, four, (youngest of three children) has attended Early Head Start and Head Start in the county and Shelton can’t say enough about the quality of the program. All the programs in Wallowa County are Star Rated through the Oregon Department Education Spark. Two private child-care facilities, Miss Angela’s Child Care in Enterprise and the Montessori Learning Tree in Joseph, are working toward that rating.
There are 33 lucky kids already in Head Start in Enterprise and Wallowa and eight in Early Head Start. There are nearly 35 more children on a waiting list for classroom space.
Ideally, those children would be going to a top child-care provider, but existing child-care facilities are already maxed out. There is a serious shortage of child-care providers in the county.
“I would describe Wallowa County as being in a child care crisis,” Shelton said. “We have very few licensed child care providers in the community. I have done a couple of overviews with some potential providers and others who are already serving as many kids as they can serve and are working toward licensure.”
Given her training and background, Shelton believes she may soon be allowed to become a master trainer. Today, training is completed outside the county or online.
She’s also a champion of Women, Infants and Children.
“That program is really my baby,” she said. “We had 65 active clients when I started three months ago and we are now at 94. The goal we’ve set is 101. I really believe in that program and what it has to offer.”
Her WIC responsibilities include meeting four times a year with mothers to offer individual education, record weights and heights of children, help screen children with the Ages and Stages Questionnaires, refer mothers to other agencies as needed and talk “mother talk.”
“Parents are the experts when it comes to their children,” she said. “I ask them what they need from me. I’m also a parent. It can just be two moms that are talking about what they struggle with in raising their children. I have resources that can help; I have tons of pamphlets and books and resources for parents.”
She works alongside the county’s medical and mental health clinics so that everyone can provide children with the best care.
“My passion is serving the families of this community,” she said. “I feel extremely privileged to be able to serve the community the way I do.”
Info: umchs.org or call 541-398-2397.