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State helps child care facilities offer families routine during pandemic

State waiver to allow children to stay in daycare facility up to a year beyond graduation.
Photo by Christopher Ryan on Unsplash

The Colorado Department of Human Services created a waiver to expand school-age capacity during the pandemic for all licensed child care facilities, school-age child care centers and family child care homes up to a year.

Lynlee Espeseth, communications manager for the Colorado Office of Early Childhood at the Department of Human Services, said, “There are less than 50 child care programs that have requested the waiver for additional school-age capacity.”

Christy Creek, Founder and Executive Director of Longs Peak Learning Center, is grateful for the opportunity to lighten parents’ loads through the COVID-19 crisis. While enrollment at Longs Peak Learning Center typically does not go beyond age 3, this has allowed them to retain children an extra year.

Creek said that she is impressed that the state is “helping us to keep kiddos so parents can have more time to make decisions for their kids,” she said.

Creek also said parents need only inquire about the waiver, the child care centers take care of the rest.

TLC Learning Center, or TLC, is another local child care facility taking advantage of the waiver. So far they have helped “eight families who would otherwise have moved on,” Matt Eldred, TLC’s executive director, said.

In addition to serving infants to children age 6, TLC supports the before and after school care of children with special support needs. The waiver has allowed the center to work with families during the day that would otherwise have had to receive those services outside of school hours.

“We work with about 40 children with specialized (Individual Education Plan) IEPs like occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy,” Eldred said, this extension is “especially helpful for families struggling to get that special education or other services they would normally get through an IEP.”

The waiver allows child care facilities the ability to provide routine and schedules for children when the world around them is constantly changing. .

“The biggest thing to offer, is to be able to allow consistency of child care scheduling,” Eldred said, “It allows them to have that in-person learning they had before and the child care schedule they had before.”

Eldred encouraged centers to “be as flexible as you can. We all need to think differently about how to support families in this time.” Additionally, he said, “There’s never been more of a time when families are really struggling. They’re trying to balance work, school, child care needs and, often, shared devices.”