Kelsi Edwards supervises 1-year-old William Mowris and 2-year-old Scarlett Atkinson on on Aug. 6, 2021, at Little Lambs Daycare in the town of Phippsburg. (Matt Stensland, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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State early childhood leaders want to give Colorado parents user-friendly information about how to pick child care settings that are safe, provide more support and training to unlicensed child care providers, and create a new four-member state unit to support unlicensed providers and enforce child care rules.

These are a few of the recommendations from Colorado’s Safe Child Care Task Force, which launched in June in response to the deaths of young children in unlicensed child care over the past two years.

Several of the task force’s nine recommendations, most of which are underway or slated to unfold in the next few months, recognize the large role that unlicensed caregivers — typically relatives or friends — play in Colorado’s child care landscape. The idea is to give easy-to-understand graphics or checklists to parents, first responders, and the caregivers themselves explaining what’s safe and legal, and what’s not.

Mary Alice Cohen, director of the state’s Office of Early Childhood, said the task force also envisions training to help first responders, such as police officers, understand child care safety and licensing rules.

More than half of Colorado families rely on unlicensed child care — often called family, friend and neighbor care. Many parents prefer it because they know the caregiver personally and the arrangements are convenient and affordable. However, this kind of care is largely unregulated by the state.


Ann Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado

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