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The West Steps

Author: Colorado Children's Campaign

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From the Colorado Children’s Campaign, The West Steps dives into the policies and politics that come out of the Colorado State Capitol. This insider guide is for outsiders who wonder how laws that affect the lives of Coloradans— especially kids. Join us on The West Steps to learn how you can influence the future of Colorado.
45 Episodes
The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the adage “everyone relies on someone who relies on child care” is more true than ever. Both our emergency response and economic recovery hinge on child care. When our essential workforce lacks access to child care, staffing shortages in health care, food service, agriculture, and emergency response are likely. But our child care providers have worked diligently to remain open, safely, throughout the pandemic so that parents can work and children can benefit from stimulating early care and learning environments. Similarly, Colorado’s economic recovery will hinge on ensuring people can get back to work. Access to child care is a necessary work support and disruptions in care arrangements or inability to find child care disproportionately harms workforce participation among women and people of color. Unfortunately, the higher costs of operation, the reduced revenue due to payment policies tied to child attendance, and low levels of public investment have pushed the child care industry to the brink. Many providers are struggling to keep their doors open and, sadly, many have closed their doors permanently.  This week on The West Steps, we are joined by Bill Jaeger and Melissa Mares, who discuss the need for a more accessible systems approach to early child care.  Want to learn more about ways you can engage and advocate for better early child care and education in Colorado? contact Melissa ( or Bill ( for more information.  Subscribe to our news letter here. You can also keep up with our update of al the bills on child care and early childhood here  Support the show (
Welcome back to The West Steps. Season 3 kicks off with a conversation of the 2021 legislative session and the new power dynamics, opportunities, and obstacles accompanying political affairs in the midst of a global pandemic. Riley Kitts, Government Affairs Director, joins us on episode one for an informative overview of the current state of politics in Colorado, and ways in which Coloradans can take action to improve the lives of kids across the state. Support the show (
Opening a child care center is hard enough in normal times. But with the economic and health crisis of COVID-19, starting a care center becomes truly monumental task. This week on The West Steps, our special guest takes us through the challenges and barriers child care providers face in the time of the coronavirus.Support the show (
“Everything we see we have designed. And everything we see, we can redesign.” At the Children’s Campaign we work every day on changing systems to be more just. But we are also a group of individuals taking individual steps to move our communities toward racial justice. We are in the fight for the Black Lives Matter movement to ensure our collective liberation. We offer these reflections on our journey toward racial justice to inspire others to find a way to join us.Support the show (
Kids of all ages, geographies and backgrounds use the Internet. They have smart phones and get online whenever and wherever they can—except at home. Limited or no broadband Internet access in the home i challenging for many families right now who are trying to educate their kids remotely. Colorado data show that children of color are more likely to live in homes without internet access or with limited access, and this inequity is likely to impact academic performance. Erica Manoatl and Stephanie Perez-Carrillo join us to explore the research, problems and solutions around  Colorado’s digital divide, which is getting new attention in the age of COVID-19. Support the show (
A few months ago, state legislators had a budget surplus and plans to improve public systems for children and families. Now they are faced with at least a $3 billion shortfall and the awful task of making deep cuts to critical services—and in a hurry. Riley Kitts joins us to preview the massive tasks legislators face in the next few weeks to build a new budget that starts July 1. Advocates need to speak up to ensure cuts are targeted and as equitable as possible—and that could be the foundation of massive and innovative renovation of the systems that ensure health, education, safety and family economic security. Support the show (
Katrina Little, a labor and delivery nurse and advocate for birthing mothers, joins our own Jacy Montoya Price and Samantha Espinoza to explore shifting rules in labor and delivery during the coronavirus pandemic. New guidelines restricting the number of birthing supporters, like partners and doulas, allowed in a room could impact some pregnant people differently depending on their race. Disproportionate access to health care and higher rates of chronic conditions are a few factors that drive people of color to have their own birthing support in the delivery room. As the pandemic continues, advocates worry that we will see more unnecessary birth complications, and even deaths.Support the show (
Coloradans who fall ill during the early days of this pandemic are left in the dark without access to testing for COVID-19, including our own VP for Health Initiatives Erin Miller. As she tracked testing capacity and treatment for the disease caused by Coronavirus, her own family had to wonder about fevers, health, and quarantine without access to testing. The pandemic has illuminated the weaknesses in our health insurance and family economic security systems. Erin explains where we are at right now, and what we might expect in the days ahead as the health sector races to study and respond to the disease. Support the show (
Voices from the inside

Voices from the inside


 Coloradans share their experiences during the first few weeks of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic—in their own voices. Legislators, child care providers, advocates, expecting parents and more sent us voice memos to share their thoughts, emotions and inspirations as we all struggle with a new normal that is uncertain and grounding at the same time.Support the show (
Invitations to complete the 2020 Census hit mailboxes at the same time the coronavirus was spreading across the nation. This crisis could significantly impact the counting of every Coloradan, and our state could be severely hurt by an undercount for years to come. Sarah Hughes joins us to share the good news that we can all complete our forms online from the safety of our social isolation. The Census Bureau has extended the timeline to complete it—we have until Aug. 14 now—but advocates can help now by making sure everyone knows that every baby, child and adult should be counted right now.  Support the show (
Child care and early childhood education systems are on the verge of collapsing in Colorado as families self-isolate and child care providers close. Alle providers run on tuition and attendance-based revenue from governments. With no payments and very thin margins, many providers report that they are in danger of closing permanently--at a time when essential workers like medical staff need them. Advocates and policymakers are working on emergency solutions to ensure essential personnel can sign up for child care and providers can offer space and workers to provide it. A website to make those connections,, was launched in just a few days.  Support the show (
Weaknesses in our public health system driven by chronic underfunding are being exposed as the coronavirus spreads in our communities. Glen Mayes, professor of health systems, management and policy at the Colorado School of Public Health, joins us to examine the shocks being sent through our communities during this outbreak, what we can do now to support Coloradans, and what needs to be done to support and rebuild these critical public health functions. Dr. Mays also helps us understand the virus, the response and where to go for reliable information (hint: your local public health agency).Support the show (
Time to Eat

Time to Eat


A survey of Colorado students, parents and school administrators found that kids don’t have enough time to eat their lunch during the school day. Being rushed to eat to get back to learning means children aren’t eating enough to sustain them through the day, food is wasted, kids eat to quickly and risk forming unhealthy habits, and more. As a simple human need—eating—can have complex impacts on learning, behavior and development. Researchers from the Colorado Children’s Campaign, in partnership with anti-hunger advocates around the state, offer potential solutions for policy makers in a new issue brief, “Time to Eat: An Emerging Consideration for School Lunch Delivery and the Nutrition of Colorado’s Students.” Read the brief here. Support the show (
Government Affairs Director Riley Kitts returns to debrief the status of the 2020 legislative session as we approach the halfway mark next week. Several great bills for kids have cleared first hurdles and are waiting for budget talks in a few weeks for funding. A few surprises have popped up this session that have caused very late night, and we are hearing of big issues coming up that advocates should know about. Support the show (
High school students from around the state rallied in Denver this week to tell legislators about their experiences with Colorado’s dysfunctional school finance system—and the impact it has had on their education. Advocates with the Colorado Youth Congress joined us to share how their experiences have been shaped by our uneven and inequitable school finance system. From mental health support to teacher salaries, the effects are far-ranging and significant. And they have big, ambitious plans to change it.Support the show (
Sen. Rhonda Fields joins us to explore a simple and significant way to help Colorado families living in extreme poverty--below $12,000 a year in annual income for a family of four. Legislators are considering a bill that would increase temporary Basic Cash Assistance in response to the significant increased costs of housing and other needs in Colorado, and add an annual cost of living increase. With 65,000 children living in extreme poverty in Colorado, this assistance helps balance out the negative effects of the stress and trauma of living in poverty. Visit CWEE here and sign up for our newsletter here. Support the show (
A doctor and a parent join us this week to tell us what's at stake when vaccination rates among children get too low. Kids with medical issues like cancer aren't able to be vaccinated and exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases could lead to death. With vaccine rates in Colorado schools dangerously low, we explore a proposal legislators will hear this session to boost those rates to protect kids.Support the show (
New parents go to the doctor sometimes monthly—for rarely for themselves. In the critical and hectic early days with a newborn, new moms haul babies in for regular well-child checkups, but rarely access the mental health services they need to be the best parent they can be for their babies. Pediatricians can help mothers with straight-forward and simple questions about how they are doing, and in the process identify what are normal sleep deprived feelings and when it is something more. Next week legislators will consider a budget request to allow for more of these screenings. Erin Miller, Vice President of Health Initiatives, drops by to help us understand why this is good for Colorado kids and families. Support the show (
Every adult can play an important role in supporting the mental health of kids—especially in the earliest years. But sometimes teachers and parents need help figuring out how to address those unique needs. Sarah Davidon of Mental Health Colorado joins us to explore this issue and share an innovative solution that legislators will consider this session to connect early educators with experts to design systems to address and prevent mental health issues in the early years. Support the show (
Coloradans know child care is expensive and hard to find. There are a lot of reasons—and solutions—for this. One that is rarely discussed is the workforce in early care and education. Working parents rely on these educators every day to be able to get to their own jobs, yet early childhood workers are among the lowest paid in our workforce and turnover is frequent. Bill Jaeger returns to the podcast to explore a package of solutions that lawmakers will consider soon.Support the show (
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