Colorado ranks as a near-top state for babies, but there is still work to be done
The state where a child lives until age three has a significant impact on their educational, health, and developmental outcomes. This past Thursday, national early childhood development nonprofit, ZERO TO THREE, released The State of Babies Yearbook: 2021. This report highlights state and national trends in wellbeing for children ages zero to three, using indicators that examine the reach of various policies and programs impacting young children and families. While Colorado ranks as a near-top state for babies, there is still work to be done in ensuring the best possible outcomes for our youngest Coloradans.
The report ranked states overall and by domain in one of four tiers: Getting Started (G), Reaching Forward (R), Improving Outcomes (O), and Working Effectively (W). The findings were broken down into the following domains:
Colorado fell in the top tier, Working Effectively (W), for this domain. The indicators included health care coverage, prenatal care, birth outcomes, and food security, among others. Although the state performed higher than the national average in key indicators such as a lower percentage of uninsured babies in families with low incomes, it ranked worse in critical areas such as higher percentage of babies born at low birth weight.
This domain’s indicators were primarily related to stable housing, family-friendly employer policies, and family economic security. Colorado fell in the Improving Outcomes (O) tier, ranking worse than the national average on indicators such as percentage of parents who report living in unsafe neighborhoods and babies exiting foster care who are reunified. Colorado ranks better than the national average in percentages of babies living in crowded housing and babies who experience adverse childhood experiences.
Early Learning Experiences:
Colorado once again fell in the Improving Outcomes (O) tier in this domain, which was based on indicators widely encompassing home and child care learning experiences. The state is ranked higher than the national average in areas including the percentage of parents who read to their baby every day and the percentage of babies who receive developmental screenings. However, they performed worse in percentages of income-eligible babies with access to Early Head Start.
When data were disaggregated by race and ethnicity, the report found alarming disparities. This is widely a result of interpersonal and institutionalized racism. Even before the pandemic, families of color and families with low incomes have been disproportionately impacted by discriminatory policies that create barriers to access and widen disparities. The past year has repeatedly exposed the lack of systems available to create stability and improve outcomes for all babies and families, demanding our legislators prioritize those who have been systemically harmed for generations.
Addressing these inequities is urgent and necessary in order to ensure a better future for all kids. This legislative session, we have the opportunity to improve the many issues impacting babies and families in Colorado. The Children’s Campaign is honored to work with ZERO TO THREE and Clayton Early Learning as a state-level Think Babies partner, convening the Raise Colorado coalition. There is no better time to invest in the future of our state, and the changes we make today ultimately lead to healthier and happier kids, a more educated population, and a stronger economy.