Colorado details vision to increase access to high-quality early childhood programs

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DENVER (Feb. 14, 2020) — Today, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Early Childhood announced a report and a strategic plan centered on the vision that all children are ready for school when entering kindergarten. These reports detail Colorado’s most pressing needs for children ages birth through 5, and a path forward to increase access to important programs and services for Colorado families of young children. 

Colorado is home to approximately 399,800 children under 6, almost a fifth of whom (17.4%) are living in poverty, while 12.5% live in rural areas or rural centers, and 20.7% are living in households that speak a language other than English at home. The 2019 birth through 5 needs assessment, Colorado Shines Brighter: Opportunities for Colorado’s Early Childhood System, indicates many of these children and their families would benefit from more equitable access to high-quality early childhood programs. 

This statewide needs assessment, the first since 2011, details the need for more affordable, equitable and accessible child care, particularly for families of infants and toddlers and children with special needs. Additionally, the report details 12 pressing needs to increase equitable access to, and the quality of, Colorado’s early childhood system such as:

  • The need for early childhood mental health consultation;
  • More resources to inform parents and caregivers about the programs and services available to support their young children; and
  • The need to support the recruitment and retention of the state’s early childhood workforce.

In response to these needs, the Office of Early Childhood, in partnership with the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, developed the Colorado Shines Brighter five-year strategic plan centered on the vision that all children are ready for school when entering kindergarten. Colorado recently received a $33.5 million PDG B-5 renewal grant to support the implementation of many of the strategies within the plan in partnership with state and local organizations.

“The needs assessment provides a deeper look into the challenges faced by families of young children, child care providers, community leaders, and others invested in the state’s early childhood system,” said Mary Anne Snyder, director of the Office of Early Childhood. “We are proud of the efforts made to have these same stakeholders, including more than 5,000 families, at the table to help shape our vision and identify viable solutions to ensure all Colorado children enter kindergarten ready to learn.”  

More than 6,000 Colorado parents, caregivers, early childhood professionals, program administrators and policymakers contributed to the 2019 Colorado Shines Brighter Needs Assessment and Statewide Birth through Five Strategic Plan, work done as part of the $5.8 million federal Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) funding that Colorado received in 2018 to increase understanding of the state’s early childhood landscape and identify opportunities to improve access to high-quality early care and education programs.   

For briefs of each report, visit