DENVER — As Colorado democratic lawmakers prepare to introduce a bill in the 2020 legislative session to mandate paid family and medical leave, some advocates say there should be more focus on affordable and quality child care for children after their parents go back to work.
“We feel like policy makers have been fairly unresponsive to the issue and the urgency of this issue,” said Catharina Hughey, operations specialist with Merage Foundations, the philanthropic organization behind the Care for All Children campaign.
Care For All Children is trying to reframe early child care as an issue that affects all aspects of society, not just parents. The campaign is calling on parents to share their stories and common struggles about the high cost of care, the difficulty of finding high-quality child care providers, and the trouble of find flexible care that works with their schedules.
"From all backgrounds, no matter race or wealth, and what we really did see was this connecting story of how much they cared for their children," said Hughey, speaking about the stories featured on the Care For All Children website.
Denver parents like Stephen Daubert said they can relate to the stories, especially when it comes to the high cost of child care. He pays $650 dollars per week for his two daughters.
“It’s quite a lot, it’s almost a second mortgage, but we are not going to compromise," he said. "We want great educational childcare for our kids."
The cost is one issue, but a shortage of quality care is another concern for early childhood education experts.
“In some areas they’re really focused on just keeping children safe, and in their minds they’re doing the best that they can with the resources that are available to them,” said Ty Johnson, a manager with Early Learning Ventures, a Colorado group that provides resources to daycare centers and home care providers.
Johnson said quality care goes beyond safety, and requires providers who have knowledge of early childhood development and can provide highly educational care.
“There’s a plethora of scientific research out there that says brain development birth to 5, that’s where we strive,” said Johnson.
The need for quality early childhood education is getting some attention in Colorado. Gov. Jared Polis has expressed a desire to achieve free universal preschool for all 4-year-olds in Colorado by the end of his first term. In his State of the State address in January, Polis said he would push to expand free preschool to 6,000 more children in Colorado this year.
Advocates say expanding free preschool is a great first step, but even more needs to be done.
“At the end of the day we have to change the narrative that this isn’t a parental financial problem, but rather it’s society’s failure to our youngest learners at their most critical development ages,” said Hughey.
You can sign the Care for all Children petition and learn more here.