Ensuring the future of Colorado's early childhood sector after COVID-19

It is critical for Colorado to fully understand the impact of the pandemic on child care and other early childhood services. Through comprehensive data collection and analysis, Early Milestones is identifying actions that can be taken to be rebuild the sector quickly, enable families to get back to work, and prepare for future crises.

Through three waves of surveys of Colorado families, child care providers, and early educators, we are engaging the research-policy-practice loop with system-level and research partners to determine sector needs and solutions. The results of this work have been developed into a data dashboard and several reports to inform funding, practice, and policy decisions.

Measuring the Impact

Early Milestones Colorado has been a leader in researching the impact of the pandemic on the state’s early childhood ecosystem. Tens of thousands of Coloradans participated in our surveys of families, educators, and child care providers. Findings from this research have:

Assessing the Road to Recovery

Sharing results from our surveys and conversations with the EC community.

Family & Provider Sentiments About UPK

In January, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission released its Colorado Universal Preschool Recommendations. Our findings support and expand on many of these ideas, and this new brief offers valuable data for decision-makers to consider when developing an equitable UPK system during the ongoing pandemic.

Impact on Educators of Color

Research by the COVID-19 EC Research Partnership has found that educators of color were particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, compounding existing disparities in the field. This brief explores unique hardships reported during the second wave of our surveys.

Impact on Working Mothers

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women in the workforce, especially single mothers, mothers in low-income families, and mothers of color. Our survey found that nearly one in five Colorado mothers (18%) left the workforce, and three in five single mothers (62%) reported decreased household income.

Families' Experiences of Financial Instability

Over half (56%) of Colorado families surveyed reported accessing at least one public assistance program (e.g., Medicaid, CCCAP, free and reduced lunches) to ease financial hardships.

Nearly half (49%) saw a decrease in their household income during the pandemic, with the majority of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx families reporting a decrease (67%, 61%, and 59%, respectively).

What We're Hearing

“I’m able to work remotely but not getting paid 40 hours a week. We are unable to afford child care fees, and it doesn’t feel safe to send our little ones to child care.”

Family Survey Respondent

“So many questions remain: Is it safe to re-open? Should I limit my hours? Will the parks be open? Do I stay open if Colorado moves back to a stay-at-home order? Do I require masks if I do re-open? Do I need to wear a mask the entire school day?”

Provider Survey Respondent

“Due to the pandemic and low enrollment, my classroom has been closed down, and I have been laid off. I’m heartbroken. I’m praying that I get my job back.”

Educator Survey Respondent


Early Milestones is grateful to the following project funders, without whom this effort would not be possible. We also thank our many partners who are helping to distribute surveys, interpret data, and develop communication tools.

  • Buell Foundation
  • Colorado Office of Early Childhood
  • CO Health Foundation