Reimagining early childhood in Colorado – the future of early childhood Colorado starts here

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Early childhood is a critical time in children and families’ lives that lays the foundation for what is to come. The brain rapidly develops during this time period, with children constantly acquiring new knowledge and skills that will dramatically impact their educational and life outcomes. Therefore, access to adequate child care and education are critical in providing kids with the formal and informal learning they need to thrive.  

Unfortunately, the early years are when families often have the least support and children face the greatest hurdles to opportunity. It is during this time when children are most likely to live in poverty and experience homelessness—with many unable to access child care and preschool altogether. It is also when families are typically earning the least amount of money in their careers. Children who face disruptive levels of adversity face a lifetime of challenges in overcoming their foundational experiences. Therefore, they need a strong start to embark on a path to school readiness and life success.  

While Colorado has worked hard to respond to the challenges families may face by working to improve access and quality of early care and education, many problems still persist. Currently, early childhood programs exist across multiple state agencies with various eligibility requirements and funding streams. This fragmentation creates numerous challenges for parents and providers in navigating these programs, threatening both quality and accessibility for thousands of kids.    

Colorado has a unique opportunity to reimagine the existing patchwork of early childhood programs to create a more navigable and equitable framework for all Colorado families and providers. This legislative session, we must elevate early childhood to the importance it deserves. Addressing the burdens faced by families seeking early childhood services is more important than ever, and by establishing more streamlined early care and education programs, we can provide young children with the critical resources they need to thrive. 

Where are we now?

In the spring of 2021, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) recommended the creation of a new cabinet level state agency that consolidates the various early childhood authorities, programs, and funding streams and focuses on a unified vision of comprehensive early childhood service delivery for all children birth to age five.   

As of Dec. 2021, the implementation of the Department is still in progress. The Children’s Campaign and our partners continue to actively participate in these developments with the ECLC and Transition Advisory Group (TAG). In November, the ECLC unanimously approved the transition plan for the new Department of Early Childhood. The executive summary of the transition plan is also available in Spanish and Arabic. The draft set of recommendations for universal preschool were published on December 7 and will be submitted to the ECLC for approval by January 1, 2022. The ECLC is gathering feedback on the draft recommendations for universal preschool until December 15. 

Click here to read the ECLC’s full recommendations from the spring of 2021. Click here to learn about the TAG and its process. 

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Ways to get involved

  • THE WEST STEPS: Listen to our Nov. 2021 podcast miniseries: “Conversations on Early Care and Education in Colorado” hereEach conversation features guests who have firsthand experiences and perspectives on the early childhood system in Colorado, making this miniseries a must-listen for all those interested in the new Colorado Department of Early Childhood. 
  • Subscribe to our KidsFlash blog and stay up to date on the latest early childhood news happening at the Capitol and across the state.
  • Become an advocate for children and families. Our Advocacy Training & Education includes tips for making your voice heard as an advocate, as well as information on child advocacy training opportunities.
  • The voices and actions of parents, caregivers, providers, and others who care about kids remain critical to ensure the Department serves the needs of children, families, and educators. Whether you have five minutes or five hours, both the Early Childhood Leadership Commission and community advocates offer accessible ways to get involved.   
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Se puede mandar un mensaje a Melissa Mares a si Ud. tiene interés en hablar más sobre la legislación o nuestro trabajo.