The term “two-generation” was mentioned a lot throughout hearings on several child care-related bills during the 2014 Colorado legislative session, which started in January and concluded May 7th. While some legislators asked, “what does two-generation mean?” more often the message was that high-quality, affordable child care is one of the most effective ways to promote family self-sufficiency and equally important, foster school readiness for children. In 2014, lawmakers put their money where their mouths are by passing a suite of significant child care reform bills and budget items totaling $21.7 million that will go far to advance two-generation efforts in the state.
In Colorado, 247,000 children under the age of six (62% of all children in this age group) live in families where all available parents work. Access to high-quality, affordable child care is necessary to keep our economy moving and to ensure more Colorado kids are prepared for success in kindergarten and beyond. Yet the cost of full-time licensed child care for infants and toddlers has reached as high as $14,000 per year – a cost more expensive than in-state tuition at many of Colorado’s postsecondary institutions. Child care that supports parents’ successful connection to the workforce and helps prepare children for school is simply unaffordable for far too many working families in our state.
In recent years, the state median income has declined, and the Great Recession has reduced family incomes: more than 1 in 5 Colorado children under the age of 6 lives in poverty. The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) is one of the only ways the state helps low-income parents who are working, in school or job training, or searching for a job overcome the high cost of care. However, we have seen state and federal support for affordable child care via CCCAP decline by 17 percent over the past 5 years. This lack of investment has been compounded by red tape that makes the program difficult to administer and for families to navigate.
A set of bills with a two-generation lens aimed at ensuring more affordable child care for more low-income working families has made its way through the Colorado legislature with bipartisan support. These bills reflect a set of ideas discussed by a collaborative of child and anti-poverty advocates, parents, researchers, Head Start, child care providers, county human services directors, county commissioners, business leaders, the Colorado Department of Human Services, and early childhood councils to improve child care in Colorado. Some highlights of these two-generation bills include:
- HB14-1317: This bill makes significant changes to CCCAP in order to help parents find and retain high-quality and affordable child care, support families in climbing the ladder to prosperity, and cut red tape for small business child care providers who want to serve working families.
- HB14-1072: This legislation would create a new state child care expenses tax credit that ensures those earning less than $25,000 are able to claim a credit, which includes the CCCAP parent copayment.
- SB14-003: This bill creates a pilot program to address the “cliff effect” that occurs when working parents in CCCAP receive a minor increase in income that makes them ineligible for child care assistance, yet their income is not enough to cover the full cost of care.
Overall, it’s about supporting adults and children together. We are confident that these common-sense changes and investments will enable, not inhibit, two-generation goals so hardworking parents like Shantiara Fite, whose child attends the Educare School at Clayton Early Learning in Denver, can make a better life for herself and her children. “The system should be structured in a way that allows me to go to school and engage in activities that benefit me and my family in the long run,” says Shantiara. “At the end of the day, without this, my kids would not be able to go to a high-quality program. I will do whatever I need to do to ensure they are in a program like this.”