Making Child Care Affordable & Accessible
When it comes to affordable child care, Colorado consistently ranks near the bottom as the seventh most expensive state, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Almost half of Coloradans live in communities where families don’t have access to reliable, affordable childcare they can trust.
As a working mother of four, I know how critical it is for working parents to have reliable and trustworthy care for our children: we can’t get by without it. That’s why, as a lawmaker, I will aggressively seek child care relief for working parents.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines affordable child care as 7 percent of a family’s income.
In Colorado, the median income is about $59,000, meaning child care should cost families just over $4,000 per year on average.
But our state’s average cost of child care for one 4-year-old is about $11,000 per year, while infant care is closer to $15,000 per year, which accounts for 19.5 percent of median family income in Colorado.
That means Colorado is one of 33 states, plus D.C., where child care for a baby costs more than in-state college tuition.
The unaffordable cost of child care is keeping some families in poverty and prevents others from joining the middle class. It also causes under- and unemployment among women because women are still, usually, the primary caregiver. Regardless of family structure, being unable to find affordable, trustworthy child care robs people of the ability to reach their full potential and siphons off large amounts of money that families need for critical long term investments like buying a home or building up savings.
Here’s how we can make child care more affordable and accessible in Colorado:
Investing in Colorado’s child care infrastructure
Even small increases in investments into early childhood programs pay big dividends.
A 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that investing 10% more into childcare helps reduce poverty and more women get and keep the jobs we need to support our families. When it comes to how well we fund childcare options for families in need, Colorado currently ranks near the bottom. However, as other states have shown, even small increases in investments into early childhood programs pay big dividends in the form of higher school achievement and lower rates of drug dependency, crime, and incarceration.
Programs like CCAP provide subsidies for childcare but they are premised on income limits. However, these income limits are very low. In order to qualify, a family of four has to make less than $3,792.50 per month. This is an income of $45,510 per family. This leaves large swathes of our community with no assistance.
Increasing the number of child care providers
Tax credits not only improve the standard of care our children receive, they help schools and child care providers recruit and retain a well-trained staff.
Colorado’s lack of child care providers and educators is due to poor pay despite the critical role they play in both children’s and parents’ lives. The median salary for a child care worker in Colorado is about $23,000, whereas a preschool teacher earns just $28,000. These salaries don’t provide a living wage in most parts of our state.
However, other states have enacted successful policies Colorado can learn from: Louisiana passed tax credits aimed at improving education and training levels for educators and staff at accredited child care providers, and Nebraska passed a tax credit for early childhood educators that would allow them to qualify for a tax refund based on experience, training, and educational attainment in their field. These tax credits not only improve the standard of care our children receive, they help schools and child care providers recruit and retain a well-trained staff.
Defending Colorado’s child care tax credit
I support keeping the household income level at $150,000 to bridge the gap between hardworking families and child care they can afford, and I will tirelessly defend this policy in the legislature.
Last year, the legislature made it easier for middle class families to access child care tax credits. Republicans in the state legislature wish to lower the income level to $60,000 annually for collecting a child care tax credit. However, this would not cover Colorado families in the middle class: a two-child, two-parent family has to make more than that per year to attain a middle class lifestyle in our state. I support keeping the household income level at $150,000 to bridge the gap between hardworking families and child care they can afford, and I will tirelessly defend this policy in the legislature.
Improving family leave
I will fight better family leave policies and improved legislation that safeguards the livelihoods of hard-working parents in the event of a family emergency.
An emergency can happen to anyone, and the financial fallout from a family emergency could last for years. As a lawmaker, I will fight better family leave policies and improved legislation that safeguards the livelihoods of hard-working parents in the event of a family emergency. Furthermore, I support family leave policies that include all parents, including all parents of newborns, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Combating care deserts
Almost half of Coloradans live in areas where reliable, trustworthy child care is difficult or impossible to find.
Almost half of Coloradans live in “child care deserts” - areas where reliable, trustworthy childcare is difficult or impossible to find. Low-income Coloradans and families of color, especially Hispanic families, are most affected by “child care deserts” according to a report by the Center for American Progress. We need to do all we can to bring affordable, trustworthy care into the communities where it’s hardest to find. As a lawmaker, I will be creative and tireless in my approach to solving this problem by helping businesses to provide child care to their employees and increasing incentives for child care providers to serve the Colorado communities most in need.
Why is child care so important?
Affordable, trustworthy child care helps communities raise self-sufficient adults: Study after study shows early childhood education leads to significantly better life outcomes for children as they grow up, such as lower drug use and incarceration rates, higher paying jobs, and enhanced educational attainment.
These effects are seen in parents too: when we know our children are safely taken care of, we can achieve more in our educations and careers.
Research has found that attending high-quality early childhood programs, such as preschool or Head Start, can help reduce significant disparities in achievement and development for children in poverty or from other disadvantaged backgrounds. High-quality child care has also been linked to better overall physical health in adults who attended as children.
Day care or preschool can help provide children access to nutritious meals, and connect parents and family members to mental health support, pediatrician referrals, and vision, dental, and hearing screenings for their child.
Consistent, trustworthy childcare helps parents get and keep jobs, stay in the workforce, and live in the neighborhoods where they want and need to live. It particularly helps individuals with inconsistent or changing schedules because those are a logistical nightmare when trying to coordinate.
Parents also benefit from their children’s access to child care. Parental satisfaction with day care is a significant predictor of parents’ stress levels and that may be most significant for parents in low-income families. Access to child care can help parents, especially mothers, access job and educational opportunities that can ultimately improve their family’s health and wellbeing.
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