Child care costs more than half the income of some parents in Colorado

In Colorado, infant care costs close to 10% more than the average rent.

A Colorado family with two children would spend an average of 14% of their annual income on child care, according to a fact sheet of the White House. The Department of Health and Human Services considers child care affordable if it does not cost more than 7% of family income.

Easha Vaughner’s experience illustrates the difficulties parents of young children in Colorado face. When she needed daycare to go to work, she was homeless. After human services told him about tthe Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, she had to find a child care provider who would accept her, she said.

Colorado’s statewide CCAP provides financial aid for childcare to families who are homeless, employed, looking for work, or enrolled in school or training and who have a child under the age of 13, or 19, if the child has a disability and requires care. A family that receives the CCAP takes their child to a provider who accepts it and the provider submits for reimbursement.

Colorado’s child care assistance program is administered by counties, which set their own income eligibility, but must serve families whose income is at or below 185% of the federal poverty level and cannot not serve families with income above 85% of the state’s median income, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services website. The amount a family receives depends on their income and the size of their household.

The total household size includes parents and all children for whom adult caregivers are responsible in the home, according to Christa Bruning, Adams County communications director. Anyone else who lives in the house, such as other relatives, is not included in the family size count.

A family may be required to pay a parent fees provider based on family income, household size and number of children in care. Parents pay parental fees directly to the provider at the beginning of each month.

Vaughner found Clayton Early Learning, which provides little or no cost caring for children birth to 5 years old who are eligible for Head Start and live in Denver County. Head Start is a federal grant that pays for places for low-income families at Head Start centers. Clayton Early Learning is one of the largest grant delegates in Colorado, said Paula Smith, vice president of educational services at Clayton Early Learning.

Vaughner worked as a senior recruiter and onboarding specialist for an airline, but had to quit when the pandemic hit because she had no one who could take care of her children while she was at work.

At times in Vaughner’s career, she made too much money to qualify for CCAP, so she had to pay for childcare out of pocket, spending nearly $1,200 a month on one child, but Clayton Early Learning helped her find additional help with childcare.

While Vaughner’s children have aged out of Clayton Early Learning, she’s still active in the Parent Ambassador program, which runs workshops and teaches parents how to navigate the system.

“We work together so that we can build our community and make it better for all of us,” Vaughner said.


In 2018, a single parent with a baby in Colorado spent nearly 50% of their income on daycare, and a single parent with two children spent more than 86% of their income, according to a report of Child Care Aware of America, a network of child care resources and agencies.

The annual cost of infant care at a Colorado center was over $15,600 in 2018 and over $15,800 in 2019.

A minimum-wage worker in Colorado would have to work full-time for 32 weeks to pay for child care, according to the Economic Policy Institutean independent non-profit organization that studies the impacts of economic trends and policies.

More than 64% of children under 6 in Colorado all have working parents, according to a report 2021 by the Center for American Progress.

Finding childcare has been difficult for Hennessey Jones, who works in IT.

“I had to find something that was affordable and worked within my family’s means,” said Jones, whose two children, ages 2 and 4, have been attending Clayton Early Learning for nearly a year. “I also had to find something that was close and close to my house, to get me to where I can safely take my children.”

Jones had applied to another center, but it only accepted children ages 2½ and older, and it was important to her to bring her two children to the same location, said Jones, who lives in Denver and needed child care due to the pandemic.

Counties vary in financial eligibility for CCAP, but range between 265% and 185% or less of the federal poverty level, according to a CCAP per county federal poverty guidelines sheet.

Teller County’s financial eligibility criteria reflect the limitation of its CCAP funds and how the county determined it could serve families without exceeding the allowance, according to Kim Mauthe, director of the county’s Department of Social Services. of Teller.

“We don’t have a waiting list and we have a history of overspending,” Mauthe wrote in an email to Newsline. “If we increased our (federal poverty level percentage), we wouldn’t be able to serve everyone and would probably end up with a waiting list.”

According to a abstract from the Bell Policy Centre.

Not just the cost

You be You Early Learning is a mobile preschool that takes place in a refurbished bus and serves families who live in residences at Willow Park, one of Aurora Housing Authority’s low-income housing units. Families are not paying for their children to attend, said Roya Brown, the executive director. Buses park in the neighborhood, so families can accompany their children to the bus.

Aurora Housing Authority partnered with You Be You Early Learning and provided a stipend for each child, plus free parking and electricity to keep the preschool running, Brown wrote in an email. . You be You Early Learning and Aurora Housing Authority are in discussion about providing mobile early learning services at another property.

Sometimes families who receive state child care assistance can’t use it, for a number of reasons, Brown said.

“One is that they may not have transportation to take their kids to these schools or, second, these schools, for example, they charge $1,200 per child, and then CCAP pays about $900, so these parents still have to find $300 to pay, and they are not able to make up that shortfall.

In 2018, a single parent with two children in Colorado spent more than 62% of their income on home child care, according to Child Care Aware of America’s report.

The Early Years Council Leadership Alliance allocates funds to help family child care centers start, grow and increase capacity through a grant. In 2021, ECCLA grant recipients increased their capacity by 21%, based on its impact report.

Isabella Maria Cares Family Daycare received the ECCLA grant in October. Owner Isabella Maria Caro-Preiss runs the program from her home in Brighton.

Caro-Preiss is renovating part of her basement to make it bigger, so while she currently cares for eight children, she will be growing to 12 in May. Caro-Preiss is using the funding it received from the ECCLA grant to expand the outdoor play area for children by creating an additional play area, which will be nature-based, she said.

Caro-Preiss has also received funding from Emerging and Expanding Child Care Grant Programwhich was established as a results state emergency aid programs for the childcare sector Invoicewho passed away in December 2020. She is using this grant to renovate and expand her basement, where she takes care of the children.

The bill also established the Child Care Subsidy Programwhich provided funding to support licensed child care providers.

Caro-Preiss accepts CCAP and while it does not offer financial assistance, it can help find resources for families who may need it, she said.

Increased government efforts

Colorado received $286 million for a new child care stabilization grant from the US federal bailout, a Colorado Department of Social Services representative wrote in an email. Ninety percent of the money must be distributed as direct assistance to child care providers, and providers who receive grant funds must maintain compensation for their early childhood educator workforce and reduce family tuition fees for childcare.

Providers who receive child care stabilization grant are encouraged to prioritize helping parents struggling to pay child care costs, CDHS wrote.

Early childhood educators are among the lowest paid professionals in the education industry, according to a statement from Governor Jared Polis. More than a third of early childhood educators receive grants from public assistance programs.

“As is the case with so many jobs, sometimes it is better for early childhood educators and providers to stay home and watch their own children than to continue working in this sector,” said said Edgewater City Council member Hannah Gay Keao. , wrote in an email to Newsline. “That shouldn’t be the case.”

It is difficult to determine the specific reasons why the cost of child care is so high in Colorado.

“We are not aware of any comprehensive studies on the combination of factors that result in higher cost of care here compared to other similarly situated states,” CDHS wrote in an email.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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