New Report Outlines Recommendations for Improving Child Care Affordability

Increasing Colorado families’ access to affordable child care will require action from government, business and philanthropy, according to a new report from The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Qualistar Colorado and the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

After a year of investigation into the high price of child care in Colorado, the three organizations have outlined six strategies to ensure more Colorado families can access the quality care they need to work and ensure kids have the stimulating experiences they need to learn and grow.

“Our recommendations for increasing access to affordable care cross all sectors of our state because the issue of affordable child care is one that impacts so many Coloradans,” said Louise Myrland, Vice President of Community Investments and Initiatives at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado. “After a year of research, we found the answers to the affordability question were complex and nuanced. That’s why we are asking for solutions from the public and private sectors at the national, state and local levels. Everyone needs to bring something to the table, including policy makers, business leaders and advocates.”

The recommendations include increasing access to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), expanding innovative local initiatives, increasing federal investments in affordable care, calling on business to adopt family-friendly policies, exploring innovative ways to increase administrative efficiencies and increase outreach to families.

The new report, “Child Care Affordability in Colorado: An Investigation into Child Care Costs and Recommended Strategies for Improving Affordability,” summarized findings from previous reports and included new findings after analyzing the affordability of child care in Colorado counties compared to standards for self-sufficiency. Click here to download a copy of the report and graphics.

Report: Lifting Colorado’s Young Children Out of Poverty Requires Two-Generation Strategy

Two out of every five young children in Colorado are growing up in low-income households, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that calls for a comprehensive two-generation effort to lift kids out of poverty. The report focuses on the importance of delivering high-quality early childhood education to kids who need it most, while also providing parents with access to job training, career paths and other tools that enable them to support their families.

The report’s “two-generation” approach to improving the self-sufficiency of more American families includes recommendations to integrate employment, education and child care programs for parents and children to create better opportunities for the entire family. Colorado is leading in some of these efforts. The recent reforms to our child care subsidy program, the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), for example, will ensure more children have access to safe, stimulating learning environments, while also making the program more reliable for working parents seeking to achieve a self-sufficient standard of living.

“The two-generation approach to lifting families out of poverty is rooted in common sense,” said Chris Watney, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “We know that kids need strong education and health systems to succeed, but they also need strong families. Making sure poverty solutions reach kids and parents—in the same families, at the same time—is a practical and resourceful way to turn these trends around.”

Click here to learn more about recommendations from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

KF 11.14.14 2 Gen approach

Report Finds High-Poverty Neighborhoods Have Limited Choices for Child Care

Access to high quality child care is vital to ensuring that children enter school ready to learn and supporting parents who rely on care to work. Yet, according to a report aired this week on Colorado Public Radio, many child care providers are finding it challenging to serve families that qualify for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). The Children’s Campaign and our partners supported legislation this year to address access to quality care and funding for CCCAP.

CCCAP is a county-administered benefit that provides working parents with a subsidy to offset the high cost of child care, and is funded jointly by the federal, state and county governments. However, less than a third of the state’s licensed child care facilities accept children subsidized with CCCAP and that number has declined in recent years in many communities. Logistical challenges associated with the program and low provider reimbursement rates, which are generally well below the market rate for care, make it difficult for providers to accept children subsidized with CCCAP. Using data from Qualistar Colorado, CPR created a map of the child care providers that accept KF 10.3.14 mapCCCAP in Colorado, showing that many high-poverty neighborhoods in the Denver metro area are experiencing “child care deserts” where, similar to “food deserts,” families struggle to find basic access to care.

The Children’s Campaign and our partners supported legislation this year to address some of these issues. HB 14-1317HB 14-1022 and SB 14-003 advanced key priorities for promoting access to quality care and nearly doubled state funding for CCCAP. The law includes provisions and funding to increase provider rates to align closer with the private market. Similarly, the law creates a tiered reimbursement system that offers higher-quality programs a larger payment. The CPR report highlights the importance of ongoing funding to support adequate provider reimbursement rates and the need to monitor implementation of last session’s child care legislation to ensure families have access to quality care so they can move toward self-sufficiency.

Progress in Congress This Week on Critical Programs for Kids

We know that high quality, reliable child care and affordable health coverage are essential for kids to grow up healthy and strong, so we were encouraged by progress made by Congress this week to address both the Child Care and Development Block Grant and the Child Health Insurance Plan. On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary source of federal funding for child care.

The Senate passed a similar version of the reauthorization bill in March. CCDBG funds the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), which helps families in Colorado afford the high cost of child care. The CCDBG reauthorization bill focuses on improving the health and safety of children in child care and families’ access to quality child care.  Notably, the reauthorization bill also includes a $400 million increase in funding for child care assistance phased-in over the next 6 years. The Senate is expected to vote on the House version of the bill this week to allow Congress to reauthorize CCDBG before adjourning for October recess.  For a summary of the reauthorization bill, click here.

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care held the first hearing on extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, known as the Child Health Plan Plus, or CHP+, in Colorado). Funding for CHIP is set to expire on September 30, 2015. Both Democratic and Republican Senators at the hearing expressed concern about the future of states’ CHIP programs if funding is not extended. Participants in the hearing estimated that 2 million children could lose insurance coverage without CHIP because other coverage options through Medicaid or private insurance are not available to them. Currently, more than 55,000 Colorado women and children rely on CHP+ for their health coverage. We are hopeful that Congress will reinvest in CHIP well before the 2015 deadline, so states can budget accordingly. Stay tuned for further updates.

Work Starts on New Child Care Laws

The Colorado Children’s Campaign and our partners championed a package of laws improving child care in Colorado during this year’s legislative session (see fact sheets on HB 14-1317, HB 14-1022, HB 14-1072, and SB 14-003). The important work of turning these statutory changes and new investments into improved experiences for children and families requires several important steps and translating this broad legislation into detailed regulations.

Bill Jaeger, Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives at the Children’s Campaign, is a member of the CCCAP Implementation Joint Task Force. It was created by the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Early Childhood to recommend regulatory changes to ensure Colorado Child Care Assistance Program reforms are effective. The Office of Early Childhood has created a website to track the work of the Joint Task Force as the group begins the work of making rules, setting priorities and discussing funding allocations. Members of the public and affected stakeholders are encouraged to attend meetings and comment on the implementation of the changes to CCCAP. The meetings are scheduled for July 30, Aug. 14 and Aug. 27. Each meeting will be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Arapahoe County Human Services, Littleton Rooms B & C, 14980 East Alameda Drive in Aurora.

Capitol Update – May 2, 2014

  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran/Nicholson, Kefalas) received bipartisan approval in the Senate, passing 20-15 this week. Early Friday, the House concurred with the Senate’s amendments and the bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Thank you to everyone who wrote their legislators to urge support for this legislation. The bill now includes a study of provider participation in CCCAP, strives to improve reimbursement rates as appropriations are available, and also clarifies a number of provisions to aid in county implementation of the bill. CCCAP is an essential piece of the early learning landscape and these changes, coupled with new investments, represent an exciting step towards ensuring more Colorado kids have access to stimulating experiences that let them discover, explore and grow. Please click here to see supporters, including advocates, providers, counties and business leaders, and read more about the bill.
  • Student Success Act: HB 14-1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston, Ulibarri), was approved by the Senate 33-2. An amendment was passed to restore funding for struggling readers, however, the negotiations are ongoing regarding how to structure a budget transparency system to help parents and taxpayers understand how education funds are spent within the public education system. The bill received significant debate on the Senate floor, which concluded with Republicans and Democrats joining together to pass the increased funding for education. The bill now moves back to the House for consideration of Senate amendments. It is unclear at this point if the negotiations around the budget transparency sections in this legislation could force the bill into a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the final versions of this bill that passed each chamber. Read more about the hearing and our position on reinvesting in K-12 education.
  • School Finance Act: HB 14-1298 (Hamner, Buckner/Kerr, Steadman) The annual school funding legislation was passed by the Colorado Senate with a bipartisan vote of 23-12 earlier this week. The annual roadmap for public school spending this year builds on last year’s innovative proposal to allow more children to enroll in the Colorado Preschool Program and full-day kindergarten, known as ECARE, the Early Childhood At Risk Enhancement program. Children’s Campaign Vice President of Education Initiatives, Reilly Pharo, testified in support of the ECARE provision along with the additional funding for English Language Learners. Like the Student Success Act, the School Finance Act now returns to its chamber of origin, the House, for consideration of Senate Amendments. It is uncertain at this time whether one or both of the substantial school funding bills will move into a conference committee to reconcile the different versions that were passed by the House and Senate. Together, the School Finance Act and Student Success Act seek to make nearly $500 million in additional investments into Colorado’s public education system when compared to current spending levels.It is important to note that leading state economists in the Governor’s office and some lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee have expressed concerns that this level of investment could require too much spending of State Education Fund reserve dollars. The Hickenlooper administration has prioritized increasing reserve fund balances, including the State Education Fund, to prevent the need for substantial cuts should the state face another downturn in the economy. Therefore, both the Student Success Act and the School Finance Act face uncertain paths forward in the remaining three days of the legislative session. The bills may receive some cuts in order to adhere to the Governor’s revenue limit request.
  • CCCAP Cliff Effect Pilot: SB 14-003 (Nicholson/Pettersen) was approved by the Senate 35-0 and by the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee with bipartisan support. It helps counties launch pilot programs to mitigate the impact of the cliff effect on a family’s child care benefits. Bill Jaeger, Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, testified in support of the bill Thursday. “Solving the Cliff Effect is an important issue for helping adults move to self-sufficiency and promoting the economic development of our state,” Jaeger said. “But it is just as important for helping young and vulnerable children maintain access to quality early learning opportunities.” The bill now moves to House Appropriations and then the House floor for consideration. Click here to learn more.
  • School Closure Guidelines: HB-1381 (Fields/Todd) was approved by the Senate Education Committee by a party line vote of 4-3. Children’s Campaign Director of Government Affairs, Dan O’Connell, testified in support of this measure, which seeks to ensure that evidence-backed practices are put into place when students, parents, educators, and communities face the difficult transitions that stem from the closure of chronically underperforming schools. While it is important that school closure remains an option to preserve strong accountability in Colorado’s public education system and ensure that students have access to quality schools, it is important that such an important transition such as a school closure is clearly communicated and includes supports to minimize harmful impacts on students, educators and communities.

Capitol Update – Mar. 21, 2014

  • Revenue Forecast: Tuesday, leading state economists presented the March 2014 state revenue and economic forecast. The forecast projects that Colorado’s General Fund revenue will be approximately $93 million higher than the previous forecast in 2013. In short, Colorado’s economy continues to show sustained economic momentum with many indications that the state has among the best-performing economies in the nation. The forecast noted, however, that both nationally and in Colorado, economic progress has not been even, as many communities and regions continue to feel the lingering effects of the economic downturn.The March forecast sets the stage for the 47 days remaining in the 2014 legislative session. Monday, the House of Representatives will introduce the annual spending legislation, the “Long Bill,” that lays out the State of Colorado’s budget for fiscal year 2014-15. Additionally, a flux of pending legislation is now backlogged in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and will now likely begin moving as lawmakers attempt to make the difficult decisions on which priorities to fund, and which priorities will fail due to lack of funding. For more information, see the Legislative Council March Revenue Forecast, the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting Forecast, or news reports from the Denver Post and Chalkbeat CO.
  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran, Nicholson/Kefalas) was approved by the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee with a bipartisan 8-5 vote this week. It now moves to the House Appropriations Committee. Bill Jaeger, Children’s Campaign Vice President of Early Learning Initiatives, testified for the bill with several other early learning advocates. Affordable child care should support working parents’ efforts to find and keep good jobs, to move forward in their careers and education, and achieve financial stability. At the same time, all Colorado kids need access to stimulating environments that help them learn and grow. Unfortunately, the low supply and high cost of child care in Colorado denies many working families access to this vital need. One of our best tools to help families afford child care is CCCAP. But red tape and administrative inconsistencies make it unworkable for many working parents and child care providers. The innovative changes proposed for CCCAP would help keep our economy moving by supporting working parents and ensuring more Colorado kids have access to stimulating experiences that let them discover, explore and grow. Click here to read more.
  • Student Success Act: HB 14-1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston), was approved by the House Education Committee on a bipartisan 11-1 vote this week. It moves on to the House Appropriations Committee. Children’s Campaign President and CEO Chris Watney had previously testified in support of the bill because it strikes the right balance between putting funding toward cuts made to K-12 education in recent years and targeting one-time dollars toward the populations hit hardest by the recession. “From preschool through graduation, we must ensure that every Colorado child has every chance to succeed,” Watney said. Read more about the proposal and our position on reinvesting in K-12 education.
  • School Finance Act: HB 14-1298 (Hamner, Buckner/Kerr, Steadman) was also approved by the House Education Committee this week with a party line 7-5 vote.  It moves on to the House Appropriations Committee. The annual roadmap for public school spending this year builds on last year’s innovative proposal to allow more children to enroll in the Colorado Preschool Program and full-day kindergarten. “The ingenuity in this bill is the flexibility it provides in expanding access to quality early learning through preschool and full-day kindergarten,” Bill Jaeger, Children’s Campaign Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, told lawmakers in a previous hearing.
  • Tighten Vaccine Opt-Out Rules: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) was approved with a bi-partisan vote voice vote by the House of Representatives on Friday morning. After the third reading it will move to the Senate. The bill strikes the right balance between preserving parental choice and protecting public health, by ensuring parents are making well-informed and carefully considered choices about vaccinating their children before enrolling them in child care or school. Proponents of the bill include parents, public health officials, school leaders, early childhood experts, infectious disease specialists and advocates from across Colorado.  Read more about the bill in past issues of KidsFlash or download a fact sheet for more information.

Capitol Update – Mar. 14, 2014

  • Strengthen Vaccine Opt-Out Rules: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) was approved 9-2 by the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee late Thursday evening after more than six hours of testimony. The bill strikes a balance between preserving parental choice and protecting public health by strengthening rules parents can use to opt-out of childhood vaccinations. Proponents for the bill included parents, public health officials, school leaders, early childhood experts, infectious disease specialists and advocates from across Colorado. It’s About Kids Network Leaders Vangi McCoy (Montezuma County) and Shirley Ritter (Pitkin County) testified in favor of the bill. It seeks to reduce the number of children who go to school without the vaccinations they need to protect them from preventable diseases like whooping cough. The bill has broad support from the health, education and child advocacy communities, as well as bi-partisan sponsorship. Read more about the bill in past issues of KidsFlash or download a fact sheet for more information.
  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran, Nicholson/Kefalas) was introduced this week and is scheduled for its first hearing on Tuesday, March 13 at 1:30 p.m. in the Public Health Care and Human Services Committee. Affordable child care should support working parents’ efforts to find and to keep good jobs, to move forward in their careers, education, and achieve financial stability. At the same time, all Colorado kids need access to stimulating environments that help them learn and grow. Unfortunately, the low supply and high cost of child care in Colorado denies many working families access to this vital need. One of our best tools to help families afford child care is CCCAP. But red tape and administrative inconsistencies make it unworkable for many working parents and child care providers. The innovative changes proposed for CCCAP would help keep our economy moving by supporting working parents and ensuring more Colorado kids have access to stimulating experiences that let them discover, explore and grow. Click here to read more.
  • Alternative Health Care Providers Treating Children: SB 14-32 (Lundberg/no House sponsor) was approved by the full Senate 18-17 this week and moves to the House. It would eliminate safeguards designed to protect our youngest children by allowing alternative health care providers to treat children of any age, without limitation around services that can be provided or disclosures regarding training and qualifications. The Children’s Campaign joins the American Academy of Pediatrics-Colorado Chapter, Children’s Hospital Colorado and consumer advocacy groups in opposing this legislation. Essential and time-sensitive health care services that all young children need—including immunizations and developmental screenings—can only can be provided by trained medical professionals. SB 32 undermines legislation passed last year to ensure children under age 2 receive these important services. Click here to learn more.
  • School Counselor Corps Grant Program: SB 14-150 (Todd/Zenzinger, Hamner) was approved 4-2 by the Senate Education Committee Thursday and moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Children’s Campaign supports this increase in targeted funding that helps increase effective school-based counseling within high schools with a focus on preparing students for college, career and life. Roughly 54,000 students across the state are positively impacted by the program each year. The Counselor Corps program serves schools with high percentages of low-income and minority students.  Since the program’s inception in 2008 it has a proven record of increasing on-time graduation rates, decreasing dropout rates and decreasing remediation rates as students go on to college. We thank Sens. Todd and Zenzinger and Rep. Hamner for their wise use of state dollars to invest in programs we know are impacting the lives of students across Colorado.

Speak Up for Kids Day Draws Record Number of Advocates to the Capitol

Parents and child advocates from across Colorado gathered at the State Capitol Thursday for the third annual Speak Up for Kids Day at the Capitol. More than 135 participants filled the halls to talk to legislators about child health and early childhood issues in Colorado. The day began with a training session that included a review of current legislation in child health and early childhood, role playing in preparation for legislative visits and remarks from Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen). Both legislators congratulated advocates for speaking up about the issues they care about and emphasized the value of hearing from constituents.

Participants then met directly with their legislators to discuss ways to improve children’s health and early childhood experiences in Colorado. Many of the participants were motivated to take action because of their own experiences with children in their communities.

Speak Up for Kids was hosted by Children’s Hospital Colorado, Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC). Read more about the day from the perspective of attendees by searching for #SpeakUpCO on Twitter and Facebook. See a complete set of photos on Facebook and Flickr.

Increasing Access to Quality Childhood Experiences Subject of This Week’s Lunch and Learn

The Children’s Campaign hosted the third event in our annual Lunch and Learn series this week, focusing on the importance of early development and access to quality learning experiences for young children. Children are born learning and they learn in partnership with everyone who cares for them. Making sure that the various settings where children grow and develop can serve the needs of children well is vital to the long-term success of our economy and our society. Yet, there are far more children eligible than can be served in programs that help young children in Colorado, including the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) and the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP).

Children’s Campaign Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, Bill Jaeger, highlighted the need to support our most vulnerable children to create the best outcomes for children and society. “Children under age 6 are the group most likely to be in poverty in Colorado,” Jaeger said, “These children are susceptible to struggles in school and in life and we need to ensure they have the support they need to learn, thrive and grow.” Getting it right early not only benefits individual children, but builds stronger communities, a more educated population, and a more productive and competitive workforce in the future.

The final event in our annual Lunch and Learn series will be held Monday, March 24 AT THE CAPITOL. We will be releasing this year’s KIDS COUNT in Colorado! with Gov. John Hickenlooper in the West Foyer of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. Join us for the release and then come to the Lunch and Learn afterward at 11:45 in the Old Supreme Court Chambers, second floor, to get a deeper look into this year’s KIDS COUNT.