The first Sunday in May has long been recognized as the day to honor mothers and their commitment to children.

Since 1996, the Friday before Mother's Day May 11 this year is known as Provider Appreciation Day. It is a special day to recognize child care providers, teachers, staff of school-age programs and centers, child care center directors, and all those responsible for children's education and care. There are nearly 2.8 million child care providers in the United States, with more than 11 million children younger than 5 in their care.

Locally, Child Care Aware of Southwest Kansas works with nearly 600 child care providers in 26 southwest Kansas counties. Child Care Aware of Southwest Kansas provides technical assistance, professional development events and resources to child care providers, encouraging and supporting them in their efforts to provide a safe environment with multiple types of activities that foster learning. It is critical that children receive quality care during the first five years of life because research shows that approximately 90 percent of brain development occurs during those years.

Just think, without child care, employees would not be able to report to work. Child care directly supports and promotes a productive work force. When parents know their children are in a safe, caring environment, they are able to concentrate on job duties. By publicly and privately recognizing and applauding the dedication of child care professionals, we give them well-deserved thanks for a job well done. We also remind our communities of the importance of quality child care.

Please join us in thanking the devoted child care providers and educators in southwest Kansas for their hard work and commitment to this nation's most precious investment: our children.

Rebecca Clancy, Director Child Care Aware of Southwest Kansas, 714 Ballinger St., Garden City KS 67846, (866) 550-1510 or 275-1510