Colorado Childcare Deserts

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There are vast swathes of Colorado where families live in a childcare wilderness.

DENVER — There are vast swathes of Colorado where families live in a child care wilderness, meaning that regardless of the cost or determination whether a child care center is trustworthy or suitable, these families cannot find a nearby place with space for Their children.

Child care advocates and experts across the state shared this graph which shows shortages in Colorado.

The areas highlighted in orange, a huge part of the state, have a shortage of suppliers. Areas in blue have adequate supply — not good supply, but adequate supply.

One such location is along East Colfax in Denver.


“I think about the grand opening we had and the joy,” said Pamela Harris of Mile High Early Learning.

They are partnering with Mercy Housing to develop an affordable early learning center on the 8300 block of East Colfax for approximately 45 children, infants, toddlers and preschoolers for early 2023. It will be on the main floor floor of a larger five-story building with 82 affordable apartments for families.

Location is key as Harris said this neighborhood is considered a childcare desert with 760 children under five, 256 licensed childcare spaces and nearly half of the children living in poverty. .

“It’s not going to meet every need,” Harris said. “But it’s quite important.”

“I envision families ready to find a new place to live and enroll their children in the centre,” she added.

A child care desert is defined by a census tract with at least 50 children under the age of five, and either no child care in that neighborhood or at least three children vying for a vacant spot.

Melissa Mares of the nonprofit advocacy group Colorado Children’s Campaign said the child care desert map focuses on licensed child care providers and thinks things have gotten worse since the pandemic. .

“I’m scared about the future of this card,” she said.

The map shows shortages in low-income neighborhoods across the state.

“Historically, people of color are more affected by child care deserts, disproportionately affected by a lack of access to licensed child care, low-income people are disproportionately affected,” Mares said.

It also shows rural areas and some neighborhoods considered higher income that still don’t have enough suppliers.

“It says a lot about what we value as a company,” Mares said.

Mares said this type of shortage has a ripple effect, including impacts on women’s participation in the workforce and the long-term health of families.

“Long-term access to child care impacts a family’s mental health and economic prosperity,” she said.

But Mares remains hopeful that the dire situation is a wake-up call and that it could be a turning point in Colorado.

She’s particularly optimistic because between grants and COVID relief funds, $700 million is coming to Colorado for early childhood education.

The state is also opening a new early childhood care office to streamline the search for vacant spaces, work on career paths for early childhood educators, and address staffing and salaries and streamline the opening process. daycares.

Supporters hope for longer-term support from the federal government.

RELATED: City of Denver is working with families to address child care shortages

RELATED: Colorado’s Journey to Pre-K Universal

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