Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law on Wednesday that aims to make it easier for home daycares to open in neighborhoods with homeowner’s associations.
The bill prohibits homeowner associations from banning these daycares, something supporters say has stifled many would-be childcare centers in the past.
“One of the challenges in Colorado in particular is that there is sometimes an inconsistency between state and local regulations," said Aidan Leonard, the chief legal officer for MyVillage. "So you’ll be able to get licensed at the state level but there will be local regulations with respect to zoning or building code that you need to deal with and then in addition to that there are homeowners regulations."
MyVillage is a company started by two moms that helps educators navigate through the rigors of opening a home daycare.
Leonard said becoming a licensed provider can be a confusing process with all of the different applications, training, licenses and equipment the educator needs to acquire. He said it can take up to five months to work through the process.
“There has been a significant lack of licensed available childcare across the state. There are counties where it’s considered a desert where there are no options for licensed childcare,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Tammy Story.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the problem. Along with the pre-existing shortage, schools have been closed for months; after a brief pause, daycare centers were able to reopen but had to limit the number of children they watch and add more social distancing.
Even as things begin to reopen, Leonard says some parents prefer smaller settings with fewer chances of exposure to others.
“A lot of them are concerned frankly with putting (kids) in large environments and so the need particularly for home-based programs has grown significantly,” he said.
In the time between the bill passing and being signed into law, Leonard says three would-be daycares have run into a hurdle with their HOA.
Katie Goodman is one of the educators who wants to start an in-home child care center but was blocked by her neighborhood.
She is a mother of three teenager who had just started her career in early child intervention and was building up her caseload when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When that happened, in-home visits weren’t allowed and referrals started slowing down significantly, so Goodman decided she wanted to try to open up a home daycare.
“I thought how fun would that be to have the little ones in my home,” she said.
Goodman started the application and training process but quickly discovered that her HOA prohibits small businesses in her Windsor neighborhood.
“I was very surprised that it wasn’t allowed or at least that type of business wasn’t allowed,” Goodman said.
There was a way around the HOA bans, but that would have included months of meetings and petitioning, which Goodman said she wasn’t willing to go through.
With the bill, she is now planning on opening a small, in-home daycare for up to six students.
“It's very exciting, it's going to be a lot of fun,” she said.
The new law will begin to go into effect in August.