Child care is an essential tool to strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment. However, many Colorado families face barriers to accessing affordable, high quality child care. This month, the US Health and Human Services Department (HHS) is considering proposed rule changes to expand access to child care by removing common financial and administrative barriers.

These proposed changes, along with the work of Colorado child care advocates, have the potential to expand access to child care, strengthening families and preventing child maltreatment.

Access to Quality, Affordable Child Care Promotes Protective Factors and Prevents Child Maltreatment

Promoting concrete support in times of need, which is 1 of 5 research-informed protective factors, strengthens families and prevents child maltreatment.¹ Chronic stress, resulting in toxic stress, can impact a parent’s ability to effectively respond to their child’s needs. Increasing access to quality, affordable child care, a concrete support in times of need, minimizes stress and reduces instances of child abuse and neglect. 

When parents lack access to quality child care, this can serve as a barrier to participate in the workforce, receive mental health and substance use services, and engage in other meaningful activities that reduce stress and enhance health, well-being, and economic security. Research shows that families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) experience a 20% increase in risk of supervisory neglect for each additional child care concern reported.²

In contrast, each additional month a low-income mother receives a child care subsidy results in a 16% decrease in the odds of a child neglect report and a 14% decrease in the odds of a physical abuse report in the following year.³

“Research shows that difficulty finding child care is a stronger predictor of maternal neglect than almost any other factor, including mental health, severity of drug use, history of abuse as a child, and use of public assistance.”

– Jade Woodard, Executive Director of Illuminate Colorado

Expanding Access to Child Care through Federal Policy Change

This year, the Biden-Harris Administration is directing public agencies to engage in rulemaking processes to expand access to affordable child care. In a July press conference, Vice President Kamala Harris made remarks discussing how the over 900,000 US families receiving child care vouchers through the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program (CCDBG), a federal program that funds state subsidized child care, still face barriers to accessing quality, affordable child care.

In Colorado, 32% of children ages 0-6 are eligible for subsidized child care under the CCDBG, but families receiving vouchers still pay between $1 and $584 in monthly out-of-pocket co-pays.⁴

In response to the President’s directive, the US Health and Human Services Department has proposed new rules.⁵ Among other changes, the proposed rules would:

        • Cap child care copayments at 7% of a family’s income for families receiving child care vouchers under CCDBG
        • Allow agencies to waive copayments for additional populations – including families with an income that is less than 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and families with a child with a disability
        • Exempt Tribal Lead Agencies from the requirement to establish sliding scale pay structures that require all families to pay copayments
        • Require agencies to implement new policies and practices that lessen the administrative burden placed on families when navigating the application process to receive child care vouchers
        • Increase sustainability of CCDBG program participation for child care providers by increasing the timeliness of provider payments and paying child care providers by enrollment, rather than attendance

A full list and explanation of proposed rule changes can be accessed here.

Have you received child care vouchers through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program or subsidized child care in another state?

Submit an official comment here (click green “Submit a Formal Comment” button) to share how the proposed rules would impact you and your family!

Advocacy in Colorado to Increase Access to Child Care

Illuminate is grateful to our advocacy partners who lead the charge in expanding access to child care in Colorado. We appreciate Colorado Children’s Campaign, Clayton Early Learning, Early Connections Learning Centers, Healthier Colorado, Early Childhood Councils across the state, and others who are leading this work.

We at Illuminate join our partners in expanding access to child care through Illuminating Child Care, a program that provides on-site child care to caregivers while they receive support for complex issue impacting their family, like mental health concerns, substance use disorders, or employment challenges. Through RVs that have been retrofitted into safe and enriching infant and toddler classrooms, our Early Childhood Teachers offer child care at no cost to caregivers accessing services at 15 behavioral health and family support facilities across 3 regions of Colorado.

  1. Center for the Study of Social Policy. (n.d.) About Strengthening Families and the protective factors framework. Retrieved From:
  2. Yang, M.-Y., & Maguire-Jack, K. (2016). Predictors of basic needs and supervisory neglect: Evidence from the Illinois Families Study. Children & Youth Services Review, 67, 20-26. Retrieved From:
  3. Yang, M. Y., Maguire‐Jack, K., Showalter, K., Kim, Y. K., & Slack, K. S. (2019). Child care subsidy and child maltreatment. Child & Family Social Work, 24(4), 547-554. Retrieved From:
  4. First Five Years Fund. (2023). Child Care & Development Block Grant in Colorado. Retrieved From:
  5. Improving Child Care Access, Affordability, and Stability in the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), 88 FR 45022 (proposed July 13, 2023). Retrieved From:

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