Local nonprofit uses new grants to create more childcare options

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COLORADO SPRINGS — It can be difficult for families in Colorado to find daycare, but some relief could be on the way.

The Ministry of Early Years has awarded $21.5 million in one-year CIRCLE grants to nearly 200 organizations to advance innovation, promote equity and address child care challenges that have been aggravated by the pandemic. They can use the grants to fund projects to make child care more affordable, increase the child care workforce, fill gaps in infant and toddler care, expand business support; and promote children’s health, development and education.

The local nonprofit organization Early Connections Learning Centers received one of the largest grants. They plan to use the $175,000 to expand their Home Network program for family care homes.

“While this particular fundraising project is new to our organization, it is an extension of the work we have been doing for over 20 years. Our home network in the Pikes Peak area works with individually licensed family child care centers to increase their quality, improve business practices and improve accessibility for families in El Paso County,” said Liz Denson, president and CEO of Early Connections Learning Centers.

The organization plans to recruit more people into the program and help them navigate state rules and regulations.

“We work with them to improve their education, help them with safety and health regulations and understand what it is. They chose childcare because they care about the children, not because they know how to run a business the best they can,” Deson said.

They plan to hire two coaches to help them through the process. Each trainer will work with 12 houses for a total of 24 to help fill care gaps.

“By working with these homes, we will help them increase their capacity to provide additional infant and toddler care in our community. Potentially partnering with Early Head Start to provide early start options to families in these homes To provide additional capacity for 72 baby and toddler slot machines that currently do not exist in our community,” Denson said.

“The family child care centers we work with are located throughout El Paso County, so it’s convenient to go to home, work and school. They’re also very flexible, they can be flexible with their schedules, their schedule and can meet the needs of We found that to be very important because often people with a baby, a toddler and a school-aged child all want their children together,” said Josie Watters. , vice president of home operations.

The Department of Early Childhood has partnered with Early Milestones to develop a comprehensive assessment system for the CIRCLE grant program. The organization assessed all grant applications to ensure the process was fair. More than 50% of the grants went directly to child care providers and statewide.

Breakdown of geographic focus of the project:

• Rural & Frontier: 57 projects (28%)

• Excluding Denver Urban: 31 projects (15%)

• Denver Metro: 86 projects (42%)

• Statewide: 32 projects (15%)

“We definitely prioritized areas that were considered childcare deserts. Based on the number of childcare slots versus the number of young children under five who would need that car. there is a formula that calculates it, so we took that into consideration and prioritized how the funding was exhausted,” said Bonnie Rouse Caputo, CDEC Stimulus Grants Manager.

Another round of CIRCLE grants will be distributed next month. These funds will go directly to child care providers in rural and border counties.

“It’s so important that the money gets directly to the people on the ground. This is truly a critical step in our vision to make Colorado a state where all children and the providers who serve them thrive,” said Tova Cohen. , CDEC Marketing and Communications Director.

Child care providers interested in joining or learning more about the Home Network program can contact Early Connections Learning Centers.

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