Colorado added thousands of child care slots in “day care deserts” in just two years |

Colorado added thousands of child care slots in “day care deserts” in just two years

The legislature approved the child care expansion program in November 2020 during a special session to help the state recover from the COVID pandemic

Jennifer Brown
Colorado Sun
Melinda Mass, executive director at Heritage Park Preschool, sits with children as they eat a snack Friday. Routt County was one of many counties in Colorado that received money through a grant program to improve child care access in the state.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Colorado has added more than 6,000 child care slots in two years, thanks to a grant program the state legislature created in 2020 using state and federal pandemic relief funds. 

The new openings for infants, toddlers and preschoolers are at 262 child care providers across the state, from in-home day cares run by one caregiver to multiclassroom centers for dozens of kids. 

More than 80% of the money went to parts of the state considered “day care deserts,” where there are more than three children for every one child care slot. More than 1,600 of the new spots are for infants, which are the hardest kind to find in Colorado. Most of the 6,000 slots are already open, although a few hundred are awaiting construction or licensing.

The Emerging and Expanding Child Care Grant Program received 447 applications from 47 counties, and state officials at the Colorado Department of Early Childhood approved 262 applications in 37 counties, totaling nearly $11 million, according to data provided to The Sun. The program was for people who wanted help opening a new child care center or expanding an already existing one. 

“It ran the gamut,” said Karen Enboden, manager of the early learning access and quality unit at the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. “People said, ‘I want to add an infant room because it’s needed in my community’ or ‘I want to add a preschool room because I have a waitlist that’s a year long.’

“We had providers who were in the middle of building a center apply. We had providers who were moving into the state and who were just getting at the very front end of looking for property, or bought another site with a building that was just sitting empty.”


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