FOTE Update

February 2018

Where We Were
As many of you know, FOTE received a cease and desist order from Boulder County Public Health on July 28, 2016. The order required that we stop offering programs for children until we had obtained a childcare license from the State of Colorado and were able to provide different sanitary facilities at our program site.

The health department was responding to a summer camp parent's complaint about the outhouse used at camp. While the outhouse and hand washing station fit with our philosophy of teaching children how to live outdoors, away from certain modern conveniences, we were told that it does not meet county requirements for a childcare facility.

At the time it looked like it might be the end of Feet On The Earth and that we'd have to file for bankruptcy. (You can read the full story on our Facebook page here and here.) We had to lay off all FOTE staff, since there were no funds to pay salaries, and the organization entered a state of dormancy while we figured out our next move.

What's Happened Since
With the generous support of the community through financial and in-kind donations, grants from the L&A Family Foundation and the Bobolink Foundation, and major contributions from two private donors, FOTE was saved from bankruptcy. FOTE was able to meet all of its financial obligations at the time (refunds to families for cancelled programs, payroll, payroll taxes, workers compensation and unemployment insurance premiums, etc.) and still have money to pay routine expenses, such as phone, website, and bank fees for the past 18 months while the board of directors, other volunteers, and I figured out how to proceed.

Ultimately, the cease and desist order was a blessing. Feet on the Earth needed to make some changes as an organization to be more sustainable, and we wanted to redesign the curriculum and programs to better fit FOTE's mission. After a year of gathering information and reflecting on what worked and what needed to be changed, it became clear that it was time to restart FOTE.

Brinkley Hutchings, who is an accomplished community organizer and founder of two nature-connection programs in the southeastern part of the country, and I have been working together to create and implement a plan to re-launch FOTE, and help it land back on its feet in a stronger, more sustainable way. The plan was presented to and approved by the FOTE board of directors in January 2018. Obtaining our childcare license from the State and running summer camps this year is the first step.

Where We Are At Now
Due to the complex issues related to zoning and health department regulations, having our previous program site approved for use in time for summer camps is not feasible. Because our goal is to get kids outside and connected with nature, for the summer of 2018, FOTE will run day camps at Chautauqua Park. As a public facility, Chautauqua Park already meets zoning and health department requirements for programs like FOTE's camps.

Unfortunately, FOTE will not be able to offer overnight camps this year, because a residential camp license is a separate application and has different requirements than the school-aged childcare center license for which FOTE has applied. Ultimately, our goal is to be able to offer a variety of programs again, and return to previous programs sites. This will take time, effort, and ongoing support from the community, but a plan for taking these steps is already in place.

Currently, FOTE has its permit to operate day camps at Chautauqua Park and our application to become a licensed childcare provider in the State of Colorado is being processed. Based on our conversations with the childcare licensing specialists with the State, it is our understanding that FOTE will have its application approved sometime in April.

What This Means for Summer Camps
There is nothing that indicates there will be any barriers to FOTE obtaining a childcare license and running camps this year. Our policies and procedures already were mostly aligned with State regulations. We have updated our online registration system to comply with State laws regarding information we need to collect from parents during the registration process, and we are documenting and revising our existing policies to be 100% in compliance with all childcare regulations.

Thanks to the generosity of those who made financial contributions to FOTE over the past two years, there are sufficient funds available to meet all the expenses needed to restart FOTE's summer camps. All tuition collected for summer camps will be held separate from general funds until our license is approved.

In the unlikely event FOTE cannot obtain a childcare license in time to operate camps this year, all tuition paid will be promptly refunded. If there is any delay in or uncertainty about FOTE's ability to run summer camps, a final decision regarding cancelling programs will be made no later than May 15.

We are doing everything we can to ensure that FOTE will continue to provide exceptional programs that connect kids with nature, while meeting State requirements and parents' needs to obtain high-quality, nature-based educational experiences and childcare services for their family.

Please contact me if you have any questions regarding FOTE current situation, our plans for the summer, or would like to be involved with FOTE's redevelopment.

Thank you for your patience and ongoing support. I look forward to spending time in nature with your family this summer.

Lorene Wapotich
Founder and Director of Feet On The Earth

We want to ensure that all families who wish to participate in our programs are able. Your tax-deductible donation to our scholarship fund makes that possible.

Feet on the Earth is a 501(c)3
tax-exempt organization.

Thank you for your support.

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