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For dwindling middle class, lack of affordable child care burdens Fort Collins families, employers The Coloradoan

If it feels like you are making decent money but still living paycheck to paycheck, you probably are.

Despite one of the most robust economies in the U.S., Colorado’s middle class is shrinking faster than the rest of the country, according to a recent study by the Bell Policy Center that shows Colorado’s middle-income families are struggling to make ends meet.

Jobs are plentiful, but raises haven’t kept pace with housing and health care costs. The availability and price of child care is pushing young families’ budgets to the brink.

It’s a “befuddling contrast of a top economy with a shrinking middle class,” the Bell Policy Center said in its study. Achieving and living a middle-class lifestyle in Colorado may no longer be as simple as earning a mid-range income.

The middle class — defined by the Pew Research Center as those earning two-thirds to twice a defined area’s median household income — shrinks substantially when it includes being able to afford “aspirational costs” such as saving for retirement and college, buying a home and taking vacations, expenses that were once mainstays of a middle-class life.

Fort Collins’ housing woes are well documented. Median home prices inch toward $500,000, and median monthly rents top $1,300, forcing half of Fort Collins families to spend more than 30 percent of their paychecks on housing.

MORE ON HOME PRICES:Home sales slow as prices soar beyond $400,000

More than 30 percent of Colorado’s middle-class families have no children living at home, but the other two-thirds that have kids are struggling to balance budgets without making trade-offs, according to the Bell Policy Center.

Coupled with high housing costs, the lack of available and affordable child care is a major barrier keeping many young families from achieving a middle-class lifestyle, according to Talent 2.0, a collaboration of Northern Colorado businesses, government agencies, nonprofits and chambers of commerce, which sees the issue as a major barrier to attracting and retaining top talent.

What child care costs

The median household income for a family of four in Fort Collins in 2016 was $85,000. By Pew’s definition, that means middle-class earners here would make between $56,666 and $170,000. It’s a wide range that can make a difference in one’s ability to buy a house, pay for child care, save for college and retirement and take a modest vacation every now and then.

Today, according to Bell, achieving a middle-class lifestyle typically requires:

  • A two-income household
  • At least one graduate degree
  • At least one income from a management or professional occupation that pays well above median wages

While the quickest path to the middle class takes two incomes, two working parents need someplace reliable to leave the kids.

And full-time child care can cost between $730 and $1,200 or more per month, depending on whether it’s home-based or center-based care. Infant care is even more expensive.

In Larimer County, more than 80 percent of women and 95 percent of men ages 25 to 44 work, according to a Talent 2.0 white paper on child care in the county. Without child care, there’s no chance of employment, the paper states.

But the cost of child care for one kid takes about 18 percent of a family income, based on the 2015 Larimer County median income of about $65,000. The percent goes up to 37 percent of income for two kids at the same median income.

Acknowledging the cost of child care is out of reach for many families, Talent 2.0 says addressing the problem “is critical to maintaining a healthy economic environment. We will neither attract nor retain a quality workforce in coming years unless we address the issue of access to affordable, quality child care now.”

It’s not just a family problem, said Katie Watkins, community outreach director for Base Camp, a before- and after-school program for children in Fort Collins.

“We all depend on someone who depends on child care,” she said.

Watkins sees the problem from an employer and employee perspective. She and her husband, Steven, pay $1,700 a month — about the same as their mortgage — for child care four days a week for 4-year-old Emmaline and 2-year-old Esmae.

She knows many co-workers at Base Camp can’t afford the cost of child care and worries some may have to find higher-paying jobs or stay home with their children.

The hippocampus also is smaller in size, which adversely affects memory.

“If we get the treatment to the child, what we find is there is this beautiful thing that happens called post-traumatic growth,” Bennett said. “If we heal the biological injury of trauma, not only do we re-correct that brain structure, you can do this at any age, but because the young brain is developing so rapidly, the earlier we get the treatment, the more effective and quickly the treatment will take hold.”

A key piece to mitigating these problems includes promoting prenatal care to create a biological environment for the brain to adapt or grow in a healthy way, and also creating trauma-informed schools.

“By the time these kids reach graduation in an average high school, two out of every three kids will have had experienced a trauma in their life by age 18,” Bennett said. “Too many of those go untreated.”

Pam Walker, the ECHO and Family Center council director, said without identification and intervention, children will struggle in school from the beginning.

She asked guest legislators, political candidates and even voters in the audience to support children and to invest in the very young when allocating available funds.

The ECHO and Family Center Early Childhood Council of Fremont County since 1976 has served infants, toddlers and preschool children through a collaborative early childhood system that addresses gaps in services and funding for children prenatal to kindergarten entry and their families.

They address learning and development, family support and parent education, and health and well-being through a number of programs and events.

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Congrats to ECHO and Family Center Early Childhood Council on a successful legislative symposium! The Colorado Children’s Campaign’s weekly KidsFlash newsletter

Studies show that children who experience childhood trauma, including physical, emotional or sexual abuse, can sustain lifelong, devastating impacts on their developing brain, especially when trauma happens in the home.

Matt Bennett, who is an author and trainer, spoke about adverse childhood experiences and children’s ability to thrive during the ECHO and Family Center Early Childhood Council Legislative Symposium on Thursday at the Abbey Events Center.

“The young child’s brain is programmed genetically to reach out for mom, for dad, for other people in the home for support or love, and if anger or hurt comes back, it devastates that young brain,” he said. “Also, neglect is so important. Nothing is more vulnerable in the animal kingdom than a newborn child.”

Bennett said when help and support are not available, or if a child goes to bed hungry, the young brain thinks it’s a life-or-death situation.

He said children who experience abuse potentially can develop cancer, lupus and audio-immune issues; they are 2.5 times more likely to fail a grade during their school years; it makes them more vulnerable to being hurt in the community; it raises their rate of experiencing addiction by five times; they’re 4,000 times more likely to inject drugs in their lifetime; they’re more likely to experience homelessness and to struggle socially and/or be in a domestic violence relationship; they’re more likely to struggle with unemployment; and they’re more likely to have an unintended pregnancy or develop an STD.

“One of the most tragic things about this thing that happens to children is it also threatens to take 20 years off their life expectancy,” Bennett said. “We know that kids that this happens to, especially repeatedly, have a life expectancy of only 60 years.”

Family disruptions — homelessness, untreated mental illness, domestic violence, poverty, addiction — can also wreck the development of the brain, he said.

“There is a biological injury that if not treated, this kid will carry on through their life,” he said. “The pre-frontal cortex in kids with trauma is actually physically smaller, and if not treated, they’ll carry that less cognitive ability and emotional control into adulthood.”

Because the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain, is actually larger in size, children see more fear, are scared more often and they’re more apt to jump into the fight or flight response.

The hippocampus also is smaller in size, which adversely affects memory.

“If we get the treatment to the child, what we find is there is this beautiful thing that happens called post-traumatic growth,” Bennett said. “If we heal the biological injury of trauma, not only do we re-correct that brain structure, you can do this at any age, but because the young brain is developing so rapidly, the earlier we get the treatment, the more effective and quickly the treatment will take hold.”

A key piece to mitigating these problems includes promoting prenatal care to create a biological environment for the brain to adapt or grow in a healthy way, and also creating trauma-informed schools.

“By the time these kids reach graduation in an average high school, two out of every three kids will have had experienced a trauma in their life by age 18,” Bennett said. “Too many of those go untreated.”

Pam Walker, the ECHO and Family Center council director, said without identification and intervention, children will struggle in school from the beginning.

She asked guest legislators, political candidates and even voters in the audience to support children and to invest in the very young when allocating available funds.

The ECHO and Family Center Early Childhood Council of Fremont County since 1976 has served infants, toddlers and preschool children through a collaborative early childhood system that addresses gaps in services and funding for children prenatal to kindergarten entry and their families.

They address learning and development, family support and parent education, and health and well-being through a number of programs and events.

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Send us a message to find out
more about Raise Colorado or
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Early Childhood Council Legislative Symposium: Trauma can cause lifelong effects to brain – The Canon City Daily

Studies show that children who experience childhood trauma, including physical, emotional or sexual abuse, can sustain lifelong, devastating impacts on their developing brain, especially when trauma happens in the home.

Matt Bennett, who is an author and trainer, spoke about adverse childhood experiences and children’s ability to thrive during the ECHO and Family Center Early Childhood Council Legislative Symposium on Thursday at the Abbey Events Center.

“The young child’s brain is programmed genetically to reach out for mom, for dad, for other people in the home for support or love, and if anger or hurt comes back, it devastates that young brain,” he said. “Also, neglect is so important. Nothing is more vulnerable in the animal kingdom than a newborn child.”

Bennett said when help and support are not available, or if a child goes to bed hungry, the young brain thinks it’s a life-or-death situation.

He said children who experience abuse potentially can develop cancer, lupus and audio-immune issues; they are 2.5 times more likely to fail a grade during their school years; it makes them more vulnerable to being hurt in the community; it raises their rate of experiencing addiction by five times; they’re 4,000 times more likely to inject drugs in their lifetime; they’re more likely to experience homelessness and to struggle socially and/or be in a domestic violence relationship; they’re more likely to struggle with unemployment; and they’re more likely to have an unintended pregnancy or develop an STD.

“One of the most tragic things about this thing that happens to children is it also threatens to take 20 years off their life expectancy,” Bennett said. “We know that kids that this happens to, especially repeatedly, have a life expectancy of only 60 years.”

Family disruptions — homelessness, untreated mental illness, domestic violence, poverty, addiction — can also wreck the development of the brain, he said.

“There is a biological injury that if not treated, this kid will carry on through their life,” he said. “The pre-frontal cortex in kids with trauma is actually physically smaller, and if not treated, they’ll carry that less cognitive ability and emotional control into adulthood.”

Because the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain, is actually larger in size, children see more fear, are scared more often and they’re more apt to jump into the fight or flight response.

The hippocampus also is smaller in size, which adversely affects memory.

“If we get the treatment to the child, what we find is there is this beautiful thing that happens called post-traumatic growth,” Bennett said. “If we heal the biological injury of trauma, not only do we re-correct that brain structure, you can do this at any age, but because the young brain is developing so rapidly, the earlier we get the treatment, the more effective and quickly the treatment will take hold.”

A key piece to mitigating these problems includes promoting prenatal care to create a biological environment for the brain to adapt or grow in a healthy way, and also creating trauma-informed schools.

“By the time these kids reach graduation in an average high school, two out of every three kids will have had experienced a trauma in their life by age 18,” Bennett said. “Too many of those go untreated.”

Pam Walker, the ECHO and Family Center council director, said without identification and intervention, children will struggle in school from the beginning.

She asked guest legislators, political candidates and even voters in the audience to support children and to invest in the very young when allocating available funds.

The ECHO and Family Center Early Childhood Council of Fremont County since 1976 has served infants, toddlers and preschool children through a collaborative early childhood system that addresses gaps in services and funding for children prenatal to kindergarten entry and their families.

They address learning and development, family support and parent education, and health and well-being through a number of programs and events.

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Send us a message to find out
more about Raise Colorado or
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Cross-System Collaboration to Better Support Babies in Colorado: Embedding a Two-Generation Approach into State and Community Systems ZERO TO THREE

Community leaders, philanthropists, and state agency staff in Colorado have embraced a family-oriented approach to providing collaborative services.

This case study describes how Colorado communities and state agencies have integrated a two-generation approach into services and systems to better serve young children and their families. It includes a timeline of pivotal moments in the evolution of the state’s work and identifies keys to the success of their collaborative efforts.

Explore other resources in the Innovation in Cross-System Collaboration to Better Support Babies series and the Building Strong Foundations project.

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Opinion: Closure of midwife practices could escalate opportunity gaps for Colorado children Colorado Sun

A safe, peaceful birth is a priority for everyone involved in the birth of a baby. From the parents to the providers, all want the first moments of a baby’s life to be healthy.

We also know that starts with a healthy mother who has access to affordable and quality maternity and obstetric care — well before conception.

However, our current health system makes that ideal impossible for many mothers. Families face an astonishing number of barriers due to their income, race, geography, immigration status and more.

Jacy Montoya Price
These hurdles just got a lot taller with the announced closure of two critical midwifery practices in the Denver area that largely serve low-income families.

We cannot understate what the loss of Rose Midwifery in Denver and Colorado Nurse Midwives in Aurora will mean to the health of mothers and babies in Colorado.

Christina Walker
These practices were one of a few ways to provide equal access to midwifery care for both the privately and publicly insured. Without them, the inequities women face due to their race or background will continue to be passed on to their infants.

A recent, large-scale study of midwifery practices in the U.S. found that states with greater integration of midwives into their health care systems have some of the best outcomes for mothers and babies.

That means states including Washington, New Mexico and Oregon see lower numbers of interventions, less expensive health care costs and improved outcomes.

On the other hand, some states — including Alabama, Ohio and Mississippi — with the most restrictive midwife laws and practices tend to have significantly worse outcomes for mothers and babies on indicators of maternal and neonatal well-being.

While the study doesn’t assert that midwife laws are the primary causes of maternal and neonatal outcomes, it does find that midwifery care is linked to fewer interventions, cost-effectiveness and improved outcomes.

Colorado does not have far to fall to be among the worst states. Colorado’s maternal mortality rate nearly doubled between 2008 and 2013, from 24.3 deaths to 46.2 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

This rate captures the death of a woman during pregnancy or up to one year after pregnancy, due to any cause related to, or aggravated by, their pregnancy.

On the other hand, the infant mortality rate in Colorado has decreased dramatically over the past 25 years, falling by 43 percent from a rate of 8.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births to 4.8 births per 1,000 live births in 2016.

But significant barriers remain for some racial and ethnic groups: the infant mortality rate of Colorado’s black babies remains particularly high, even when controlling for a mother’s income and level of education.

A body of research shows that stress associated with racism, discrimination and social isolation can have tangible impacts — and in some instances, tragic impacts — on the health of moms and babies.

The good news in the short term is that many of the families currently served by the soon-to-close practices have assistance in finding new providers.

Elephant Circle, a community organization, is coordinating support for families in the most critical situations in finding new care. The organizers are currently looking for prenatal providers who are available to take clients immediately.

Raise Colorado, co-convened by Clayton Early Learning and the Colorado Children’s Campaign, is also working on policy changes to help ensure all women, regardless of their source of insurance, have access to the maternity care that is best for them.

We have a long way to get to that idea, however, and in the meantime there are now hundreds of babies being born each month to mothers who aren’t able to determine for themselves how the first moments of their baby’s life will look.

Is this the kind of Colorado we want our babies to be born into?

Jacy Montoya Price and Christina Walker are co-conveners of Raise Colorado, a group of more than 50 organizations and individuals who advocate for expecting families, pregnant people, infants and toddlers in Colorado.

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