A strategy to increase supply and expand access to quality child care

Colorado has a shortage of infant and toddler child care. Hundreds of providers have closed in recent years. To help increase access to quality providers, state law allows for an innovative funding strategy: contracted slots. With contracted slots, Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) payments are made to providers on a monthly basis, which gives them more consistent cash flow and financial security.

Three counties (Arapahoe, Denver, and Gunnison) engaged in a six-month pilot of this approach. The pilot included seven providers and a total of 27 slots. Early Milestones conducted a study to assess the benefits and costs for families, providers, and county and state administrators. Early Milestones also provided support for implementation, coordinating the pilot’s advisory group, and synthesized and disseminated findings and recommendations to help expand the approach. While challenges remain, the pilot showed the potential that contracted slots hold for increased access to quality child care.

Benefits of Contracted Slots

Contracted CCCAP slots could have a lasting, positive impact on access to quality child care for Colorado families. Below are a few or our findings from the 2019 pilot.

  • All providers indicated that the pilot positively impacted their program’s finances.
  • The majority (86%) indicated that the pilot positively impacted relationships with the county and participating families.
  • 66% of providers indicated that a primary challenge of CCCAP is that payment is tied to attendance.

On the Business of Child Care

Early Milestones conducted 30-minute phone interviews with 99 providers across 32 counties to evaluate providers’ understanding and interest in implementing contracted slots. Nearly three-fourths (72%) of interviewed providers accept the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). This brief shares our findings.

What Pilot Participants are Saying

Consistent care is everything to my family. It means that I can provide for my children. I couldn’t go to work without having a consistent child care center. Without CCCAP, working would not be possible for me, being a single mom.


It allowed us to have some consistency, to know that the kids are paid for every day. It also allowed us to have some flexibility with some families who might have things going on, whether it be medical, personal, sick children, sick themselves, going between mom and dad for custody issues.

Child Care Provider

This pilot just opened our eyes to attendance. Is there something else we can do with CCCAP to reach out to any family – not just contracted slots families – to help with attendance?

County Representative


Thank you to the many partners who make this initiative successful, including the local partners in Arapahoe, Denver, and Gunnison Counties for participating in the 2019 pilot.  This work was made possible through grants provided by Gary Community Investments, Donnell-Kay Foundation, Klau Family Foundation Fund, and the James A. C. & Maureen A. Kennedy Charitable Giving Fund.

  • Donnell Kay Foundation
  • Constellation Philanthropy