Finding and Paying for Great Childcare in the Denver Metro Area

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Finding Childcare in Denver - Denver Moms“How far along are you?” “You’re carrying high, are you having a boy?” “Are you having really weird food cravings?” “Are you sure you’re not having twins?” “So, are you going to have more babies right away?”

“Are you going back to work after the baby comes?”

Like so many pregnancy well-meaning inquiries, the answer to the question of whether or not a mother will return to work is extremely personal.

Determining whether to continue to pursue a career or to stay home to be a full-time parent is stressful and can be complicated, both emotionally and financially. This decision is tied to career aspirations, desire to provide an idyllic childhood and financial stresses of forgoing income and/or paying for childcare.

For those who decide for any number of reasons to return to the workforce, the next hurdle is a big one –  finding childcare that is convenient, affordable, and best for your child. With the rising costs of childcare and the scarcity in many large cities making waiting lists months long, finding and affording quality care for children is becoming more and more difficult.

Also, let’s be honest . . . childcare in Denver is really expensive

As many of us know all too well, the Denver metro area has become an incredibly expensive place to live. This is even truer when you’re a parent! According to Child Care Aware, the average cost of center-based care for an infant is approximately $15,600.

The Search for Quality, Convenient, Affordable Childcare – Start Looking Early

I stayed home with my daughter for the first 18 months of her life. My decision to do so was driven not only by my want for more time with her, but also by the cost of childcare and the lack of availability. Even if a family is fortunate enough to have the financial means to pay for quality care, waitlists can be long and the process can be daunting. So, I waited longer to go back to work and spent time finding the best childcare solution for us.

I consider myself lucky with regards to my current daycare situation

My daughter currently attends a wonderful daycare center run by a well-regarded non-profit, located only four blocks from my office. The staff is fantastic and dedicated, so it doesn’t hurt as much to make the paycheck-sized payments.

Here are some tips and resources that helped me in my search, in the hopes that they might help you!

Finding Childcare in the Denver Metro Area

Colorado Shines

Colorado Shines connects Colorado families with licensed quality child care programs and resources to support children’s early learning. Part of the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Shines-rated programs are state-licensed, meet health and safety standards and are regularly monitored. They have a fantastic guide on How to Find Quality Childcare and you can search their online database of over 4,000 area child care centers, preschool programs, family child care, Head Start programs, and other school-aged programs to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Mile High United Way

Mile High United Way skilled team of child care navigators will help you figure out child care options that are convenient and affordable. They also can assist you in your search for a center with availability.

Paying for Childcare in the Denver Metro Area

Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)

CCCAP helps families who are income-eligible get funding to cover the cost of care.  You must reside in Colorado and be working, seeking employment, or participating in training/education.

Colorado Preschool Program

The Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) is a state-funded early childhood education program. Each year the General Assembly funds half- or full-day preschool for up to 29,360 children considered to be at-risk for later school failure. There are a number of qualifying factors that determine a child’s eligibility, which vary by school district.

The Denver Preschool Program

The Denver Preschool Program provides tuition support for 4-year-olds in their last year of preschool before kindergarten.  All children who live in the city and county of Denver are eligible, and support is based on income.

If you don’t qualify for the programs listed above, there are other options! Here are a few more ways to reduce the overall burden of childcare costs on your household:

  • Child care and dependent care tax credit. You can deduct up to $3000 in childcare expenses per child ($6000 maximum), to save on your overall tax bill.
  • Child tax credit – each child in your house under the age of 17 is eligible for a $2000 tax credit
  • If your employer offers it, set up a Dependent Care Account. This flexible spending account allows you to set aside up to $5000 before taxes. That money can be to pay for child care.

Fundamentally, we need change

I do realize that none of these resources are magic bullets in finding and affording care. Unfortunately, at its core, the child care system in this country needs to change. We need more affordable child care options with stable and rewarding employment opportunities for staff. The best thing that we can all do is speak up and share our thoughts. Contact your elected representatives – school board, city council, senators, and congresspeople. I hope you will join me to make childcare more accessible and affordable!

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