A year of challenge and hope

by Emily Bustos, CEO & Charles Dukes, Board of Directors Chairperson

This year has been one of challenge and hope. As our organization and the Denver child care provider community adjusts to the reality of an ongoing pandemic, we navigated uncertainty and witnessed remarkable fortitude amid workforce shortages and intermittent closures due to COVID-19. Retaining and recruiting qualified teachers during the last year has been difficult, and child care providers have demonstrated immense creativity and commitment to serving children and families during this stressful time. The pandemic has simultaneously demonstrated the essential nature of child care and added pressure to a system in desperate need of public investment.

Fortunately, building a more robust early childhood system has been a focus in 2021. In November 2020, Colorado voters passed Proposition EE which established a tax increase on tobacco and nicotine vaping products and will fund universal preschool across Colorado. The state is also developing a new Department of Early Childhood which will bring early childhood funding and services under one governmental department. In addition, federal stimulus funding will provide much needed support for child care providers in the next couple of years. This year, the Council has focused on maintaining child care capacity and laying the groundwork for these significant developments.

To meet the needs of our community and staff, the Council has:

  • Adopted a “hybrid model” where staff work from a home office and connect virtually with providers. Part of this shift included downsizing our office. We are still in the Tramway Nonprofit Center but in Suite H next door. We’ll have an open house later in 2022 to welcome everyone to our new workspace.
  • Launched a workforce innovation project with two other early childhood councils focused on career navigation. We intend to create a model for early childhood career navigation that can be replicated across organizations and hopefully across the state.
  • Worked in partnership with Mile High United Way to host a vaccine clinic for child care providers in Denver.
  • Distributed CARES Act funding in partnership with the Office of Children’s Affairs to help child care providers keep the lights on.
  • Supported child care providers to pursue “emerging and expanding” funding from the state to increase their capacity to serve more children.
  • Worked with a consultant to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our organization and programs.
  • Developed a leadership book club that supports staff to see themselves as leaders and reflect on their practices.
  • Continued our partnership with Denver Preschool Program to provide a variety of quality improvement services and programs to child care providers across the city.

We accomplished a lot this year, and could not do this work without the support of our partners and our Denver community. We look forward to working together in the coming year to build an early childhood system that works for child care providers, children, and families. We invite you to read our brief overview of the past year, and as always, we appreciate your support and interest in our work.