A larger share of Colorado parents are reading and singing to their babies and toddlers than in most other states. A larger percentage of young children here are covered by health insurance and more get screened for developmental delays.
These are a few of the reasons that Colorado received top marks in a new state-by-state report on the best and worst places to be a young child.
Colorado is one of only 12 states — most on the East Coast — to earn the highest of four ratings in the “State of Babies Yearbook” released Tuesday by the research organization Child Trends and the advocacy group Zero To Three. The ratings are based on dozens of health, education and family measures, pulling from research that shows the first three years of a child’s life are critical to successful development.
Most of Colorado’s neighbors, including Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Arizona, and Oklahoma, earned one of the lowest two ratings.
So, how did Colorado, which is often in the middle or back of the pack on reports showing how states serve preschool-aged children, land in the top tier for the zero-to-3 set?
Part of it has to do with specific state policies in place here that improve outcomes for young children. For example, Colorado took advantage of a provision in Obamacare that allowed it to expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income families. In addition, Medicaid plans here cover social-emotional screenings for children and depression screenings for mothers at child check-ups.
Colorado also racked up points for being better than the national average on a variety of child and family statistics. These include lower-than-average infant mortality and food insecurity rates and higher-than-average access to federal Head Start services for babies and toddlers, and a larger share of parents who report reading daily to their young children.
Colorado also had a few weak spots in the rating. For example, the state has a higher-than-average share of low-birthweight babies and the cost of infant care here puts a greater financial burden on parents than it does in other states. The report also notes that Colorado lacks state policies on paid family leave and paid sick time that allows parents to care for children.
This is the first year Child Trends and Zero To Three have released the report, but the authors mention plans to make it an annual publication. To read the Colorado report go here and to see results from all states, go here.