UPDATED APRIL 7, 2020.

As COVID-19 requires additional demands of our essential workforce to support our health care system, our human services providers, public safety professionals, and other members of our emergency workforce, child care will be a vital piece of Colorado’s response. The state has taken courageous efforts to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve” by closing bars, restaurants, ski resorts and gyms.  Our hope is that these necessary precautions will give our health care workers, including critical support staff, and emergency first responders enough time and capacity to build the infrastructure we need to contain the virus. However, we know that many members of our essential workforce have young children. Without child care many of them will not be able to perform the work that is most crucial to supporting the function of our essential services.

Recognizing the need for child care for essential workers, Governor Polis called together a group of early childhood providers, advocacy groups, school districts and foundations to partner with Gary Community Investments and the Colorado Department of Human Services to establish a system of emergency child care. With generous support from Centura Health and the Buell Foundation, the Emergency Child Care Collaborative began on March 23, supporting the families of health care providers, public safety personnel, and staff supporting critically at-risk populations.

Governor Polis remarked, “A crisis can bring out the best in us. I am so thrilled to see our early child care providers and foundation leaders working in collaboration with CDHS and OEC to ensure that our most essential workers have the child care they need so they can continue to come to work. This is precisely the kind of public private partnership that shows every Coloradan can help do their part to look after each other.” 

Who is covered?: Through this emergency program as of March 30th, the state will extend a full tuition credit to all essential workers identified in Updated Public Health Order 20-24 issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. This 100% tuition credit will provide child care to all essential workers until May 17. The program is aimed at serving families in need of child care in order to continue to perform their critical duties. Parents who have options to keep their children at home with a family member or have other arrangements are encouraged to use those. Emergency child care provided through the Collaborative is for when all other non-group care settings have been exhausted and families have no other options.

How is it structured?: Linked on this website is a survey for people who meet the definition of essential personnel in response to the emergency. If an individual needs child care and cannot find support otherwise, we will work to provide a connection to an open child care site or emergency child care provider. The survey will determine each family’s child care needs including location, time of day, age of children and preferred structure of care. Depending on region or need, possibilities might include licensed in-home care, a center-based program, services in a school-based program and on-demand child care. We will do our best to notify families of potential care providers that meet their needs and provide directions on how best to reach out to the provider to arrange enrollment. 2-1-1 Colorado can also help interested families. Families should dial 2-1-1 for information and support.  

How will it be staffed?: Also linked on this site is a survey for potential providers who are available to offer emergency child care or have capacity in their existing programs to meet the needs of our emergency and essential professionals. To date, the response has been strong; it is clear that the child care community wants to do what they can to help.  Providers are encouraged to complete the survey (if they haven’t done so already) to note their availability to provide emergency child care. We will also be working with partners such as school districts, municipalities, counties and recreation departments to identify potential spaces for the creation of new emergency child care in response to demand that current supply cannot meet.

How do we know it’s safe?: The emergency child care offered will follow Colorado child care licensing rules. To date the supply of licensed care is sufficient that non-licensed care has not been required. , Providers will follow state guidance around school and child care responses to COVID-19. All providers must meet the standards articulated by the Office of Early Childhood, and should follow guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to support increased social distancing and other health and guidelines to maximize protection for the educators and children.  

How does licensure work?: Participating child care centers and homes must already be licensed to provide care or obtain approval from the Office of Early Childhood to operate, including ensuring that all of the teachers and educators will meet health and safety requirements for background checks and standards to work with the age groups to which they are assigned.  The Office of Early Childhood’s Licensing Unit can help providers ensure they are able to provide emergency child care, open up existing access to families requiring emergency care, and obtain any additional clarification on waivers or flexibility required to offer emergency child care.  

How does matching work?: For more information about the matching process between parents and providers, please refer to the Matching FAQ.

How can I learn more?:

  • If you are a family who meets the criteria above, fill out the application for child care here
  • If you are a provider who is willing to open your facility to accommodate these critical workers, the first step is to register your status and get approval from Child Care Licensing at the Colorado Department of Human Services. Click here to get started. Once approved by Licensing, you will receive additional communication regarding setting up a provider agreement to be paid through the Collaborative as well as information on how the matching process works.
  • If you are an educator willing to help serve this population, you can apply here
  • If you have questions or need additional help, dial 2-1-1 and select the option for child care.  Please mention you are an emergency and essential worker looking for child care.
  • For further questions about the public private partnership, you can email Steffanie Clothier at Gary Community Investments at sclothier@garycommunity.org
  • For questions about licensing or public health, please refer to the links above or email cdhs_oec_communications@state.co.us
  • For local contacts, please contact your local Early Childhood Council.
  • If you are a child care provider and have questions, please see the FAQs that are available from the Office of Early Childhood : Emergency Child Care Collaborative FAQ and the Child Care COVID-19 FAQ. 

Thanks to the individuals and organizations that are making this effort possible including Gary Community Investments, the Colorado Department of Human Services, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Nanno, Mile High United Way, Centura Health, The Buell Foundation, Early Milestones Colorado, Caring for Denver, Denver Early Childhood Council and all of Colorado’s Early Childhood Councils, Denver Preschool Program, Early Connections Learning Centers, Executives Partnering to Invest in Children, Council for a Strong America, Healthy Child Care Colorado and many more with special recognition for the providers and caregivers who are providing care to support Colorado’s essential workers.