Bradley and Charlie play at West Grand Early Childhood Center on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, in Kremmling. The Center, which opened in 2019, currently cares for about 20 children of up to 6 years old. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

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Colorado’s new state early childhood agency aims to ease the burden facing families and child care providers by shifting it onto the shoulders of government.

That vision is a key part of the state’s recently released draft plan for the new agency, which will launch in July, just over a year after it was proposed by a group of state early childhood leaders. The department will oversee the launch of Colorado’s universal preschool program in 2023 and replace the state’s Office of Early Childhood.

It also will bring together programs for young children and families that now reside in two departments and create a common application that parents can use to enroll in an array of early childhood programs.

”We think we can be more innovative and more expansive,” said Susan Steele, co-chair of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, a state advisory panel. “We want to be on the cutting edge … if it will be better for kids, families, and providers.”

People inside and outside the state are generally optimistic about the new agency’s potential — with the caveat that many details have yet to be worked out.

Susan Hibbard, executive director of the Boston-based BUILD Initiative, a national organization that helps states develop early childhood systems, said she’s excited about Colorado’s plan, including the commitment to making early childhood programs easier for families to navigate.

Dawn Alexander, who heads an advocacy group for private child care providers, the Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado, sees the new agency as an opportunity to make things more effective and efficient.


Ann Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado

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