DENVER (CBS4) – Child care can be so expensive some parents don’t work just because they can’t afford to. Now some state lawmakers want to change that.

While research shows ages one to five are the most formative years of a child’s life, in Colorado child care is cost prohibitive for many parents. The state has the fifth most expensive child care in the country.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The proposed bill would set up a system where low income parents and high quality programs get the most help.

For middle class families child care is often an enormous expense. For families in poverty, it’s out of reach, which is why years ago the government set up the Child Care Assistance Program as an incentive to keep parents in the workforce.

“Subsidized child care has always had really high aspirations,” said Charlotte Brantley, President and CEO of Clayton Early Learning Center in Denver.

Brantley says there’s been a disconnect in funding. In Colorado parents who make as little as $20,000 a year can be cut off. The average cost of child care is $14,000.

“We definitely have had examples of parents who will say, ‘I was offered a promotion but I chose not to take it because there’s no way I could continue to have my child stay here,’ “ Brantley said.

“When we think about making sure that individuals are self-sufficient, that they’re going from welfare to work, this is very important step,” said Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.

Legislation by Duran would make families with a salary of $32,000 a year eligible, and gradually reduce assistance as their wages increase. The bill will also reimburse providers based on quality.

Brantley says while it won’t solve the dilemma facing Colorado where dual income families are the norm, she says it’s starting a conversation that’s long overdue.

“We’ve not wanted to, as a nation, to say there’s an obligation of the entire village to everyone’s child until they hit kindergarten,” Brantley said.

The bill would cost the state about $8 million, but Duran says it will ultimately save money by helping parents become self-sufficient.

The bill also addresses the availability of child care, encouraging quality programs to open up more slots by reimbursing them more.

In Colorado there are slots for less than half of children under six who need child care.

LINK: Child Care Assistance Program

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