Child Safety in Care Settings Focus of Denver Post Article

The Denver Post published a report this week highlighting the importance of regular licensing visits for child care facilities and the need to invest in quality child care and safe settings for our youngest children. In the report, the Post reviewed the tragic cases of 24 children who have died since 2006 in child care. While the circumstances of these sad losses of life vary, the report indicates the state should take a stronger stance on child care regulations and the frequency of visits by licensing inspectors.

Colorado has had one of the worst licensing caseload ratios in the country, with inspectors visiting the average facility once every three years. This is why the Children’s Campaign was in strong support of last year’s budget request to increase licensing visits to at least once every 18 months. This is a good down payment on improving oversight in licensed settings. In addition, supporting child care providers and their efforts to provide the best care possible is a necessary step. Children’s Campaign’s Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives Bill Jaeger was quoted in the report, emphasizing the importance of making investments to support our child care providers.

“We need to raise the bar,” Jaeger said. “We need to expect more in terms of the quality, health and safety at these places because we owe that to our youngest and most vulnerable, but on the other side, if we don’t provide more resources to meet new standards, we will be putting facilities in danger of going out of business, and there is a critical need for these facilities.”

Striking the right balance between expecting more and providing more support can help avoid these tragic circumstances in the future.

 

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.

New Child Care Report Finds Costs Driven by Complex Factors

Basic safeguards for children in child care centers and the average pay for child care workers—who remain among the lowest paid in Colorado’s workforce—are key reasons why child care in Colorado is among the least affordable in the nation, according to a new report from The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Qualistar Colorado and the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

The second brief in a three-part series explores the affordability of care in Colorado compared to other states to better understand what is driving prices and what can be done to ensure more Colorado families can access the quality care they need to work and ensure their children have the stimulating experiences they need to learn and grow. The first brief explored cost variations among Colorado communities.

The new report, “Child Care Affordability: A Look into Child Care Business Costs” found that the average price for full-time, center-based child care in Colorado in 2013 was higher than in 43 other states for both infants and preschoolers. Preliminary estimates for 2014 indicate the average price for infant care in Colorado is above $13,000 a year.

The report found several factors that drive the cost of care in Colorado, but also ensure children are in safe environments while their parents are working. They range from higher commercial property taxes in Colorado to our state’s higher safeguards for basic safety and child protection. Another driving factor is the state’s lower reimbursement rate to providers who serve children eligible for subsidies through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP).

To download a copy of the report and graphics, please visit: http://www.qualistar.org/child-care-cost.html

Child Care Costs Vary Widely Across Colorado

The affordability of child care is an issue for many working Colorado families, but it’s particularly hard for families with one income.

Providing a safe, nurturing environment for children so parents can work requires a lot of labor—but that’s only one driver of cost. At the same time, child care providers are among the lowest paid in our workforce. Providers can’t reduce costs and maintain safe spaces, yet families in many areas of Colorado can’t afford to pay more.

A new report by the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Qualistar Colorado, and the Colorado Children’s Campaign, “Child Care Prices and Affordability: A Struggle for Colorado Families and Providers” compares, county by county, the average cost of care relative to median annual income for married couples as well as households headed by single mothers to better understand the affordability of child care across the state.

Colorado is the fifth-least affordable state in the country for center-based care for infants and for 4-year-olds, according to Child Care Aware. Costs are so high that licensed child care in Colorado is more expensive than in-state tuition and fees at a public four-year university, according to the College Board.

The report found that child care is a labor-intensive industry, and personnel costs account for most of providers’ budgets. This is driven by staff-to-child ratios needed to provide safe spaces and ensure children have the attention they need to learn and grow. Since families may need care for up to 12 hours a day, multiple shifts are also required to ensure adequate staffing. Still, the report noted Colorado doesn’t meet national recommendations for ratios.

At the same time, early childhood professionals are among the lowest-paid in the workforce, and many do not receive benefits. The median salary for child care workers in Colorado in 2012 was $22,726, or $10.93 per hour. Even though personnel costs are significant portions of budgets, child care workers are often low-wage workers themselves, thus making cutting these costs a challenging approach to addressing high prices. Subsequent briefs in this three-part series will explore potential solutions to the affordability of child care.

Read coverage of the report from The Denver Post, Denver Business Journal, ChalkBeat Colorado and Colorado Public Radio.

To download a copy of the report and graphics, please visit: http://www.qualistar.org/child-care-cost.html.

Child Care Brief

Capitol Update – April 18, 2014

Tighten Vaccine Opt-Out Rules: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) was amended and approved 3-2 by the Senate Committee on State, Military and Veteran Affairs Wednesday and moves to the full Senate. The amendment struck the portion of the bill that would have required parents electing a personal belief exemption to either get a medical provider’s signature or complete an online course. The new version of the bill still directs the state to create the educational online module in order to provide credible, evidence-based information about vaccines and requires schools and child care centers to disclose vaccination and exemption rates upon request. Finally, the bill still requires the Board of Health to create regulations on how often schools and child care centers must collect signed personal belief exemption forms from parents choosing to opt-out of vaccinations. As amended, the bill retains important provisions that will provide parents and policymakers with more accurate and detailed information about vaccine efficacy and exemption in Colorado. However, we are disappointed to have lost the key element of the measure, which would have ensured parents electing an exemption were doing so after careful consideration. As demonstrated by recent public opinion polling, there was strong support for House Bill 1288 in its full form across Colorado. We thank the many child advocates who spoke up in support of the bill and look forward to continuing to work together to advocate for policies that support healthy kids and healthy schools. Read more about the bill in past issues of KidsFlash or download a fact sheet for more information.

Student Success Act: HB 14-1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston, Ulibarri), after five and a half hours of debate, was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee Thursday. It goes on to the  Senate Finance Committee before going to Appropriations. Children’s Campaign President and CEO Chris Watney testified in support of the bill in the form that it left the House 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. “As the economy recovers, you have an opportunity with this bill to make sure that the children who were hardest hit by the recession are a top priority for reinvestment,” Watney said.  Unfortunately, near the end of the hearing two detrimental amendments were adopted.  One would reduce funding directed toward struggling readers and the other watered down the budget transparency component of the bill.  The reduction in money for students identified as having a significant reading deficiency under the READ Act dismisses the fact that after the legislation passed in 2012, teachers have identified double the number of children thought to be struggling readers, for a total of over 42,000 students in K-3 across the state.  Research shows us the importance of all students mastering literacy by the time they leave third grade. We will work with legislators to reverse these detrimental amendments. Read more about the hearing and our position on reinvesting in K-12 education.

School Finance Act: HB 14-1298 (Hamner, Buckner/Kerr, Steadman) was also heard in Senate Education and directed to the Senate Finance Committee after passing on a vote of 4-3. 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. Children’s Campaign Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives Bill Jaeger testified alongside other early childhood advocate in support of the ECARE provision. Bill urged lawmakers to reverse the amendment made in the House that prioritized funding toward kindergarten over preschool because research shows the incredible value of a child receiving both high quality preschool and kindergarten. “There is a cumulative cost to the child and to our public education system when children enter school unprepared. If we take the long view, there are substantial cost savings associated with investing early rather than remediating late,” Jaeger said. Sen. Steadman offered and passed an amendment to reverse detrimental changes made in the House.

Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran, Nicholson/Kefalas) received final approval in the House with a bipartisan vote of 38 to 24 and moves to the Senate. The bill was amended in committee to include a study of provider participation in CCCAP, reimbursement rates, and also clarify a number of provisions to aid in county implementation of the bill. As a result of these changes, the bill now has the full support of Colorado Counties, Inc. CCCAP is one of our best tools to help families afford child care. 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. Please click here to see the growing list of bill supporters that includes advocates, providers, counties, and business leaders and read more about the bill.

CCCAP Cliff Effect Pilot: HB 14-003 (Nicholson/Petterson) was approved 4-3 by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. 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. “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.” Click here to learn more.

Reduced-Price Lunch: HB 14-1156 (Moreno/Ulibarri) was approved by the House this week by a vote of 38-26 and now moves to the Senate. The bill removes the Reduced-Price Lunch co-pay of 40 cents for students in grades 3 through 5. The co-pay was previously removed for students in public early childhood programs and for those in grades K-3. Click here to learn more.

Capitol Update – Feb. 21, 2014

  • Pediatric Dental Benefits: HB 14-1053 (McCann/Aguilar) was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper this week. The bill gives the Colorado Insurance Commissioner the authority to fix a marketplace inequity and align regulations guiding the Connect for Health Colorado market and the outside insurance market, ensuring pediatric dental benefits are treated equally inside and outside the exchange. We’re pleased that this bill was approved and signed into law so quickly, as the Commissioner of Insurance must promulgate regulations before May to ensure they are in effect for 2015 insurance products. Click here to read more about the bill.
  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Eligibility and Authorization Alignment: HB 14-1022 (Landgraf/Newell) passed the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services with bipartisan support on Thursday. This proposal would help minimize disruptions in child care for low-income families by ensuring that, except in limited cases, CCCAP-eligible families are authorized for child care assistance for a full 12 months. Click here for more details and list of supporters.

Colorado among Bottom Five States for Child Care Affordability

A report released this week by Child Care Aware of America ranks Colorado as one of the least affordable states for child care in the country. According to the report, Parents and the High Cost of Care, the average annual cost to provide infant care in a center was $12,736 in 2012. For a family making the state’s median income, child care expenses can take up 15 percent of the income for a two-parent family and nearly half of the income for a Colorado family headed by a single mother. For some families, this expense often exceeds the cost of housing, college tuition, transportation or food.

High-quality, affordable child care options are vital to the well-being of Colorado families. We know that quality early experiences ensure children enter school ready to learn and are able to experience long-term academic and life success. Making quality child care more affordable for Colorado families is vital to our economic vitality and the immediate and future success of our young children.

Child Care Assistance at a Pivot Point

The United States is at a pivotal moment for child care assistance, according to a report released this week by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). With recent expanded child care investments, state-based advocates could build on the initial progress we have seen in the past year, but this progress could also easily be reversed if sequester cuts continue or there are additional federal and state budget cuts.

The National Women’s Law Center’s state-by-state report, Pivot Point: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2013, examines five critical factors that determine the affordability, accessibility, and quality of assistance in each state: income eligibility, waiting lists for assistance, copayments required of parents receiving assistance, reimbursement rates for child care providers, and eligibility for parents searching for a job. The report highlights  that, on average, only three states have higher parent co-payment rates than Colorado families living at 100 percent of poverty. In addition, only two states (compared to Denver’s rates) reimburse providers at a rate further below the market rate for 4-year-olds in center-based care. Overall, the picture of the Colorado child care subsidy program is one that could be better structured to meet the needs of parents as well as providers.

Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force Advances Two Child Care Bills

On Wednesday, the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force, an interim committee of the Colorado General Assembly, approved several bills to be introduced during the 2014 legislative session. These included two bills to ensure child care is affordable, accessible and high quality. Led by Chair Sen. John Kefalas and Vice-Chair Rep. Rhonda Fields, the Task Force met throughout the summer to identify policy solutions that ensure all Coloradans have the opportunity to contribute to our state’s economic success.  Given the highcost of child care in Colorado, promoting accessible, affordable and quality early care were identified as top priorities for the Task Force.

The Task Force approved two bills related to child care: one focused on extending the child care tax credit to low income families and a second designed to enhance the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (see the draft bills at the bottom of this webpage). We believe both measures are important steps forward to expanding access to affordable, quality child care for low-income Colorado families and we look forward to supporting them through the legislative process. If approved by Legislative Council in November, the bills will be introduced when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.  Rep. Brittany Pettersen and Sen. Evie Hudak will be the lead co-sponsors of the bills.

Spanish Version of School Readiness for All Report Released

Earlier this year , Colorado’s Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) Care Learning Community released School Readiness for All: The Contributions of Family, Friend and Neighbor Care, highlighting the contributions of family, friend and neighbor child care providers throughout Colorado. This week, the group released the Spanish translation of the report, Preparación Escolar Para Todos: La Contribución del Cuidado de Familias, Amistades y Vecinos en Colorado at an FFN convening hosted by Mile High United Way.

The event brought together many stakeholders from across Colorado including FFN providers, community members and state leaders. The convening highlighted key challenges and strategies around ensuring FFN care providers have access to the resources needed to provide safe and nurturing environments for young children. We know FFN care provides an important role in the lives of young children: In 2011, Colorado had enough licensed settings to care for only 43 percent of children under age 6 who have all parents in the workforce. Yet the programs and groups reaching out to these providers do so with limited resources and tools to make meaningful connections. Continuing efforts to highlight the needs of FFN caregivers and exploring useful strategies to support this essential group of child care providers is vital to ensuring all Colorado kids have quality early experiences and can enter school ready to learn.