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New data reveals child care center decreases in Denver

Data shows the number of child care facilities has been on the decline since 2021.
Posted at 5:20 PM, Mar 20, 2024

DENVER — It's not uncommon for new parents to struggle to find reliable child care options. It can force families to make tough choices like ending a career to stay home with their children.

New data from the City and County of Denver shows the options have only been getting more slim.

"I probably have called about 50 different facilities," said Nicole King, a new mom in Englewood whose initial child care option fell through, so she had to start from the beginning. "I had no idea just how competitive and time-consuming it would be."

Her son recently turned 9 months old, and she has yet to find safe, reliable child care for when she goes back to work full-time. When Denver7 initially spoke to her, she had narrowed it down to two possible options, but the journey to get there was difficult.

"When I called [other locations] to say, 'Hey, do you think you'll have something coming up in September when my job is going to be starting?' They said, 'We're not going to have anything in September. We're probably not going to have anything ever for your kiddo,'" said King. "We've had to look further, in Littleton, Denver and other areas."

The number of daycare options in Denver has only been getting worse over the last several years.

"There has been a decline in child licensed child care facilities all across the City and County of Denver. In fact, since 2021, we've seen it drop around 60 licenses," said Eric Escudero with the city's excise and licenses department.

The number of active child care licenses in Denver in March of 2021 was 484. It dropped to 426 in 2022, 423 in 2023, and 425 licenses this year. He calls the trend worrisome.

"One of the things we always think about is, how can we serve Denver in an equitable fashion?" said Escudero, "Some neighborhoods have more child care facilities, and some neighborhoods have very little."

According to the city, Denver's Central Park neighborhood has the most licensed child care centers at 29. That's about the same amount as four other surrounding neighborhoods — North East Park Hill (7), North Park Hill (9), South Park Hill (10), and East Colfax (5) — combined.

Several neighborhoods only have one licensed child care center for the entire community: Kennedy, Auraria, Chaffee Park, Regis, Valverde, North Capitol Hill, Belcaro, Country Club and Civic Center.

"We're going to follow it closely and if there's something that the city can do from a licensing standpoint to remove any barriers, that'll definitely be something that we are looking at," said Escudero.

A bipartisan bill is moving through the State Capitol to address the issue on a state level.

"To our working parents, our working families: We see you at the State Capitol and we are working on behalf of you to try and increase access to child care facilities," said State Rep. Meghan Lukens (D), who is co-sponsoring HB24-1237 alongside Rep. Mary Bradfield (R), State Sen. Janice Marchman (D) and Sen. Janice Rich (R).

The bill is aimed at helping make it easier for child care facilities to open up or expand.

"Specifically through capital funding, technical assistance, as well as local government planning grants and supports actually getting shovels in the ground," said Lukens.

If passed, the bill would create a child care facility development toolkit and technical assistance program that would help owners or prospective owners of child care facilities plan for building or expansion.

It would also create two other programs: a child care facility development planning grant to incentivize local governments to update regulations to allow for more facilities and a child care facility development capital grant to help pay for the projects.

As the bill makes its way through the legislature, many families continue to struggle to find that perfect child care option.

"There's a real return on investment for supporting early childhood centers and early childhood education throughout the state," said King.

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