COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens to Undermine Colorado’s Progress in Child Well-Being

Pandemic could exacerbate existing challenges for kids and families

Contact: Tara Manthey
Title: Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Communications and Development
Phone: 720-256-1312

COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens to Undermine Colorado’s Progress in Child Well-Being

Pandemic could exacerbate existing challenges for kids and families


April 29th, 2020

DENVER—Colorado has made important strides toward improving conditions for kids since the Great Recession, according to a new report from the Colorado Children’s Campaign, but the COVID pandemic and resulting economic downturn threaten to set our state back in critical areas. Data from previous economic downturns show that children’s health, safety, education and family economic security will likely be immediately impacted, and their futures hamstrung unless policymakers step in with solutions that put kids and families first.

The 2020 KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report surveys the latest pre-pandemic data related to child well-being. It shows that many fragile systems weren’t meeting the needs of kids and families before the pandemic and economic crisis. Data from past reports, including nearly two decades of childhood poverty trends, demonstrate that children are likely to continue to suffer long after economic downturns end.

“Colorado’s child poverty rate only recently dropped to levels seen before the Great Recession because kids and families weren’t prioritized during our last recovery,” said Kelly Causey, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “We stand ready to support state leaders facing the enormous challenge of responding to this pandemic and our eventual recovery, and we will be vocal and firm in our resolve that children and families must be prioritized at every step.”

Colorado has an opportunity to learn from previous economic downturns. The Great Recession saw more than 40,000 additional Colorado children fall into poverty, and it took our state’s child poverty rate five years to recover to its pre-recession level.

“Five years is too long,” Causey said. “We can’t let the same thing happen to Colorado kids in the aftermath of COVID. Experiencing poverty for even a short period of time during one’s childhood can have lifelong consequences.”

The report, Creating a Path Forward for Colorado’s Kids, offers a snapshot of trends from before the pandemic. In areas where Colorado kids and families were already struggling, the pandemic has the potential to exacerbate existing challenges—and inequities along racial and ethnic lines will worsen if trends follow historical patterns. Key findings from the report include:

  • Childhood poverty unchanged after 20 years: Statewide, 150,000 children (12 percent) lived in poverty in 2018, fewer than during the Great Recession but still a higher rate than in 2000. Additionally, 22,369 Colorado students experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, up 42 percent from 2008-2009.
  • Health insurance gains stagnating: After years of historic progress toward reducing the number of Colorado kids without health insurance, uninsured rates have stagnated for Colorado children and participation in public insurance programs is down, with 21,000 fewer children enrolled in Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) in 2019 than 2018.
  • Challenges accessing child care: Prior to the COVID pandemic, Colorado only had enough licensed capacity in its child care centers, family child care homes and preschools to serve 58 percent of young children who likely needed care. The pandemic has the potential to reduce Colorado’s child care capacity even further, harming our state economy’s ability to recover as families struggle to find consistent child care for their children.
  • Full-day kindergarten success: The legislature’s expansion of full-day kindergarten boosted enrollment by nearly 12,000 students to a statewide participation rate of 97 percent in the 2019-2020 school year. Full-day programs are linked to better attendance, improved academic achievement and lower rates of grade retention.
  • Opportunity for early childhood education: Research shows life-long benefits for children who attended preschool, yet only half of all 3- and 4-year-olds in Colorado attended any type of preschool program in 2018. Now more than ever, supporting access to quality early childhood education not only benefits children, but will also be critical to Colorado’s economic recovery as parents get back to work.

Other conclusions from the report include data on Colorado’s changing population, emerging threats to children’s health and comparisons of teacher salaries and child care access in rural and metropolitan areas.

The annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report tracks the well-being of Colorado children statewide and at the county level. The 27th annual report includes data and research on kids in the areas of demographics, health, early childhood, K-12 education and family economic security. The report is a complement to the national KIDS COUNT Data Book produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

A digital copy of the KIDS COUNT report (embargoed until April 30) is available here. A media preview webinar was recorded prior to the stay-at-home order in March. Please view the recording, or access the slides.


About Colorado Children's Campaign

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child well-being in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research and organizing an extensive statewide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Tara Manthey at 720-256-1312 or email Tara at