Continuing the momentum toward building a quality early learning system in Colorado

Building on several years of growing momentum in support of early childhood policies, Colorado state legislators and advocates continued the forward progress to build a high quality, early childhood system in the state.

This year, Colorado had several significant policy wins for young children, including passage of four bills:

  1. HB 16-1227. This law, which was signed in May 2016, makes teen parents and domestic violence survivors exempt from the requirement that they cooperate with child support enforcement as a condition of receiving Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). By lowering barriers to access for children and families at a sensitive point in their lives, the bill streamlines access to quality early experiences that put children on a path to school readiness.
  2. SB 16-022.  This new law removes the 10-county limit in the CCCAP Cliff Effect Pilot Program to allow additional counties to participate in the program. The pilot program addresses the “cliff effect” that occurs when working parents receive a minor increase in their income that makes them ineligible for child care assistance, which is often not enough of an increase to cover child care costs completely. The pilot allows for a more gradual phase out of assistance to help families transition from the child care subsidy program toward self-sufficiency.
  3. HB 16-1242. This supplemental appropriation for the Colorado Department of Human Services directed funding to double the number of Early Childhood Mental Health Intervention Specialists employed by the state from 17 to 34 and to support a stronger infrastructure for mental health consultants throughout the state. This means more readily available help and resources to support the behavioral health needs of children, families, and early childhood providers.
  4. SB 16-212. The bill aligns state law with changes in federal law related to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) to ensure that a child receiving CCCAP continues to be receive services for an entire 12-month period before eligibility is redetermined, as long as the child's family income remains below 85% of the state median income for that family size, as required by federal law.

In addition, Colorado’s budget advanced several key early childhood priorities, including:

  • An increase of $2 million in state funds to support recent reforms to CCCAP, including tiered reimbursement for providers.  This is the third consecutive year of state general fund increases in support of Colorado’s child care subsidy program.
  • Moving to annual child care licensing visits.  Just two years ago, Colorado was visiting child care providers on average every other year (and in some cases less frequently).  This change will help support the basic health and safety of our youngest children.
  • Expansion of Early Intervention services for infants and toddlers who may have developmental delays.
  • A $6 million increase in nurse home visiting in Colorado, an evidence-based program that supports low-income first time mothers achieve healthy outcomes for themselves and their children.
  • Securing funding to implement Pay for Success in Colorado. Pay for Success was passed in 2015 as a strategy for the state to leverage private and philanthropic dollars to fund social programs that only get repaid by the government if certain agreed upon outcomes are achieved. Pay for Success will open the door to new investments in early childhood and prevention-oriented health services for vulnerable children and families.

Despite the continuing momentum in support of Colorado’s children, state budget constraints could jeopardize this recent success.  Advocates in the state look forward to untangling Colorado’s fiscal landscape and, in the process, ensure that adequate and equitable resources are directed to ensure every child is given every chance to succeed.

-Bill Jaeger, Vice President, Early Childhood Initiatives, Colorado Children’s Campaign and
Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist, Clayton Early Learning

(June 30, 2016)