Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced the creation of an Office of Early Childhood (OEC) to consolidate and better administer early childhood programs in Colorado. This consolidation of programs and services in the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) will support parents by strengthening collaboration and coordination between the state-level early childhood system and local delivery systems.
"Colorado families and children deserve the opportunity for a fair start," Hickenlooper said. "This change will create a high-quality early childhood system that streamlines early childhood services to help ensure all children are healthy, valued and thriving."
The new office will bring together seven programs that currently exist in four divisions within CDHS:
* Child Care Licensing
* Child Care Quality Initiatives
* Colorado Child Care Assistance Program
* Early Childhood Councils
* Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
* Early Intervention Colorado Program (Part C/Early Intervention)
* Promoting Safe and Stable Families
The move will maximize available resources without incurring additional expenses. Additionally, the OEC will continue to work with many partners, including parents, schools, child care, early intervention, businesses, community organizations and other stakeholders to provide high-quality early childhood programs and effective prevention strategies.
"Colorado's future depends on our shared commitment to create opportunities for every child to succeed," said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia. "Our goal is to provide a path toward success for all Colorado families and children, including those who face challenges as a result of environment, economics, health, language or other circumstances."
This unified approach will reduce red-tape, streamline the offering of early childhood services, aid local program administration, ensure programs share similar high standards and remove barriers to information and needed supports.
Under the direction of the Lieutenant Governor's Office, the Head Start State Collaboration Office and Early Childhood Leadership Commission will help support this reorganization by physically relocating to DHS.
"The importance of accessible, high-quality early childhood services has been well-documented and cannot be overstated," said CDHS Executive Director Reggie Bicha. "Bringing these services together will ensure a more coordinated and collaborative approach to meeting the needs of Colorado families with young children."
Last year, a proposal was initiated by the Early Childhood Leadership Commission in partnership with the executive directors of the Colorado Departments of Human Services, Public Health and Environment and Health Care Policy and Financing.
This proposal was proposed through SB12-130 this spring by the bipartisan legislative Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission and received broad stakeholder support. While SB12-130 was postponed indefinitely during the legislative session, there is still strong commitment from the administration and stakeholders to advance and improve early childhood supports and services, particularly for Colorado's at-risk populations.
CDHS has begun the process of hiring a director with the goal of opening the office in August.