Ensuring Access to High-Quality Child Care

A child’s most critical developmental and learning experiences begin at birth and occur in partnership with parents and caregivers. The quality of a child’s early experiences lays either a strong or a shaky foundation for all that follows.  In 2018, Colorado’s licensed child care centers, family child care homes and preschools only had capacity to serve 58 percent of the young children who were likely in need of care. More than 255,000 children under 6 in Colorado had all available parents in the workforce that year. Yet provider data indicate there were fewer than 148,000 licensed slots available across the state as of June 2018. Between June 2017 and June 2018, the state lost more than 4,000 licensed slots, despite an increase in the estimated number of young children in need of care.

The majority of Colorado’s youngest children live in households where all parents work, making child care a necessity for most families. Without strong federal and state support for quality early experiences, many working families struggle to find affordable child care. This can put our most vulnerable children further at risk and creates significant barriers for low-income parents to maintain employment.  On average, one year of child care for an infant in Colorado costs $15,600 in a child care center and $10,400 in a family child care home.

a group children in a classroom around a table
Denver, CO- Classrooms at Clayton Early Learning in Denver on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)


Recent Policy Successes

House Bill 16-1227 lowers the barriers for teen parents and domestic violence survivors to access child care by removing the requirement that a parent pursue child support before accessing child care assistance.

House Bill 14-1317 overhauls Colorado’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) to expand access, promote quality, and lower barriers for working parents trying to find child care so they can move toward self-sufficiency.  The changes included in HB 1317 will be implemented over several years and advance this program as a two-generation approach to supporting children and families.

House Bill 13-1291 expands access to infant and toddler care by supporting counties and early childhood councils to invest in supporting more families while also raising the quality of infant and toddler care.

Senate Bill 14-003 builds on SB 12-022 to incentivize counties to participate in a two-year pilot program that extends CCCAP subsidies to families who exceed the income eligibility threshold.  Families would continue to take on an increased share of the cost of care as their income increases, but this program allows a more gradual transition for families who otherwise face a dramatic loss in benefits, creating a disincentive to increase their income.

House Bill 14-1072 extends the Child Care Expense Tax Credit to families making less than $25,000 per year.  Prior to the legislation, this tax credit which helps families afford the high cost of child care was not available to Colorado’s lowest income families.

House Bill 19-1013: Extension of the low-income Child Care Expenses Tax Credit for 8 years (continuing $3M tax credit).

Budget: 7 consecutive years (through the 2020 budget) of increases to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program.