DENVER, CO - MARCH 24: Childcare workers at the Southwest Family YMCA are on hand to serve a very important role during the coronavirus pandemic on March 24, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. Today, about 18 kids are at this location, ranging from pre-school age to 12-years-old, and are able to participate in physical activities in the gymnasium, as well as a range of craft projects, like making masks. (Photo By Kathryn Scott)

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When the coronavirus pandemic hit last spring, Darlene Lowe was inconsolable.

The eight children she regularly cared for in her Arvada home weren’t coming any more — and without them, part of her family’s livelihood vanished.

“The first part of COVID, I cried for two weeks,” she said. “I just cried like a baby. That’s how frightened I was — about everything, the loss of income, that we were going to get COVID and die.”

Over the next months, she and her husband got rid of cable, cut back on grocery spending, and stopped watering their lawn. Lowe, 67, took a class to become a notary signing agent, picking up jobs whenever she could over the summer.

The particulars of Lowe’s experience may be unique, but among child care providers, the broad-brush strokes aren’t. Since the spring, many have faced a cascade of financial demands, from extended closures to extra cleaning and sanitation costs. Now, new data from Colorado early childhood groups paint a more detailed picture of the state’s child care landscape in the coronavirus era.

It’s not good news exactly, but a bit less bleak than comparable national statistics.

About 10% of Colorado child care centers and child care homes were still closed at the end of July because of the pandemic, according to a survey by the nonprofit Early Milestones Colorado that drew responses from 1,207 providers, around a quarter of the state’s total. Data from the National Association for the Education of Young Children and Child Care Aware of America indicate higher closure rates nationally: 18% to 35% for centers and 9% to 21% for homes.


Senior reporter — Chalkbeat Colorado. Email: Twitter: @annschimke