Programs & Initiatives
Current Programs & Initiatives
Our programs contribute to the overall success of the early childhood system in Denver by assisting children, early care and education providers and families in obtaining high quality services and improving access across multiple domains. As the early childhood system in Denver evolves, the DECC will continue to strive to meet the needs of young children and families in Denver by offering programmatic and systemic support.
School Readiness Quality Improvement Program
The Colorado general assembly found that studies indicated a strong correlation between low socio-economic status and poor academic performance by students. The general assembly further found that providing school-readiness quality improvement funding to early care and education providers and facilities that provide care to the children of low-income and economically disadvantaged families for the purpose of enhancing school readiness will enable the parents to work while helping those parents provide their young children with a strong developmental foundation with which to start school and meet the challenges of a standards-based public education.
In response to this information, in 2002, the general assembly enacted legislation establishing the School-Readiness Child Care Subsidization Program (HB02-1297) that provided targeted investments in the form of school-readiness subsidies to licensed child care providers serving families in low-income communities.
In 2003 the program evolved into the HB03-1238 School Readiness Quality Improvement Program (SRQIP). The program is intended to "help improve the school readiness of the children, five years of age and younger, from those low-income and economically disadvantaged families while also assisting the state of Colorado in closing the learning gap and enhancing the overall academic performance and achievement of Colorado school children." The School Readiness Program is funded with federal Child Care and Development Funds through the Colorado Department of Human Services' Division of Child Care. The Council's role is to administer the SRQIP resources locally and to assist Denver providers in improving the quality of care they provide to young children. This grant cycle (2009-2012) we are working with 30 sites and 122 preschool classrooms.
Denver Preschool Program (DPP) Quality Improvement Program
The Denver Preschool Program is the result of a ballot initiative approved by Denver residents in November 2006 to improve access to and availability of quality preschool for families with young children. The initiative recognizes the importance of quality early childhood educational opportunities for all children in the City and County of Denver by setting aside a percentage of sales tax revenue for tuition credits for families and quality improvement resources for preschool providers. The program is open and voluntary for all Denver children in the last year of preschool before kindergarten. Since the program's inception, DPP has provided tuition credits to parents; funding for a quality rating (Qualistar Colorado/NAFCC, NAEYC) to preschools; funding to provide coaching within identified DPP classrooms; and professional development resources to providers.
The DECC administers the quality improvement funding for DPP preschool providers who participate in the DPP by providing oversight of the coaching program component. Through a partnership with Qualistar Colorado and DPP, the DECC is able to collaboratively offer a pathway for providers to improve the quality of their programs, thus expanding capacity and driving demand for more high-quality preschool classrooms. Because DPP is a tax-funded initiative, the quality improvement scope of work changes as funding is made available to support the program on an annual basis.
Through a partnership with Qualistar Colorado and DPP, the DECC is able to collaboratively offer a pathway for providers to improve the quality of their programs, thus expanding capacity and driving demand for more high-quality preschool classrooms. A quality preschool program gives children the start they need to go to kindergarten by supporting the creation of a strong foundation that paves the way for success in kindergarten, throughout school and later in life. Because DPP is a tax-funded initiative, the quality improvement scope of work changes as funding is made available to support the program on an annual basis.
Provider Professional Development and Denver Resource and Referral
The DECC also provides a range of Professional Development opportunities for Denver's early childhood professionals. It is our goal to deliver high quality training that helps early childhood professionals increase their knowledge, no matter where they are on their educational pathway. This is important because research has shown that the teacher's education level has bearing on classroom success which in turn has a direct impact on children's future school readiness and success.
- ECE Scholarship Program - Provides scholarships for individuals taking classes at the Associates or Baccalaureate level in early care and education (ECE). Students receive funding for 3-6 credits and a small stipend for expenses related to their education (i.e. books, parking, and childcare). This activity is funded by the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation.
- Resource & Referral Professional Development Trainings - Three to twelve hour trainings provided throughout the year based on Division of Child Care Licensing's Core Content areas. As a Child Care Resource & Referral agency we are required to provide a minimum of fifteen hours a year of training, but for the last two fiscal years we have offered more than 30 hours of training a year.
- Expanding Quality for Infants & Toddlers (EQ) - This is a 48-hour training for teachers working directly with infants and toddlers or their Directors and Assistant Directors. The hands-on curriculum was developed for adult learners by the Colorado Department of Education and is a favorite of participants. This class is required for home providers seeking an infant/toddler license and can be used in place of a college course (ECE 111) for those seeking Director's and Early Childhood Teacher Qualifications. Approximately 150 providers participate on an annual basis. Two of the six courses the DECC offers each year are offered in Spanish.
- Educational Stipend - Since the Spring 2010 semester the DECC has partnered with the Colorado Office of Professional Development to make education stipends available to certain Denver providers taking college courses. The stipend amounts correspond with credential levels. To date we have assisted Denver providers in obtaining more than $29,000 in stipends.
Early Childhood Health Systems Integration
The Denver Early Childhood Council recently launched a new initiative that will result in a plan to effectively integrate health services and health providers into the broader early childhood systems building work happening in Denver. The DECC carried out an extensive planning process with experts from early education, health and mental health to apply for funding to integrate health more deeply into the work of our Early Childhood Council. In the fall of 2009 the DECC was awarded funding from The Colorado Trust to implement this plan over the next three years.
The DECC is expanding our work to integrate health into all of our systems building planning and activities. The DECC is committed to integrating health and wellness by:
- Building our knowledge and experiences in early childhood health, wellness and Medical Home
- Expanding our school readiness mission and purpose to include health and wellness
- Growing our membership and transforming our strategic plan
- Developing our capacity to provide sustained leadership, collaboration and resources
- Engaging in joint planning across systems
- Public Health information dissemination and messaging
Child health is a key factor in ensuring the readiness and success of children in school. Understanding of, and involvement in providing a coordinated approach to a Medical Home is the Colorado Early Childhood Framework Outcome that best reflects our comprehensive systems building work. It encompasses the medical, dental and mental health needs of young children, and the deeper philosophies embedded within Medical Home – family-centered, cultural compassionate and continuous – reflect the vision of the Denver Early Childhood Council (DECC) and of the early learning professionals working with the DECC.
We know that all children benefit from a Medical Home and that studies have shown that children learn better when they are physically and emotionally healthy. There is only limited understanding of what a Medical Home is and why it is important to the wellness and school readiness of children in the early learning and health and communities. The health system is complex and difficult to navigate.
Mental Health Action Alliance
In early 2008, the DECC recognized that there was limited access to mental health services for young children in Denver and there were few, if any, standards on program quality. As a result, the DECC formed a small task force to explore how to address these concerns, which ultimately lead to the creation of the Mental Health Action Alliance for Early Childhood Mental Health (DECC-MHAA).
The DECC-MHAA was composed of 42 early childhood experts ranging from parents and family advocacy organizations to early care and education providers, and representatives from developmental disabilities, mental health, health, child welfare, schools, and others. DECCMHAA's charge is to develop an actionable strategic plan for early childhood mental health based on community input and best practices, and to build support for the plan among community stakeholders to ensure the plan's implementation.