Implement a Substitute Fund Pilot

The Need 

Substitute educators provide support for child care programs and providers by ensuring the availability of consistent, high-quality care. Substitutes make it possible for staff to engage in professional development and take the personal time needed for vacations, health and wellness and unforeseen challenges. 

The lack of a robust substitute workforce has been identified as a concern in Colorado, as is the prohibitively high costs for placements. Prospective educators are less likely to enter the field if there is not an adequate support system available to take critical time off and maintain a healthy work-life balance. A broader substitute workforce will ideally reduce burnout and turnover and increase the availability of care. 

The Strategy 

Funds from this activity subsidize the cost of substitute educator placement among child care programs and streamline placements. The fund also supports recruitment and retention to increase access to substitutes so that providers can maintain reliable services. The substitute fund will also test the use of software to automate the placement process and reduce administrative burdens. 

Lastly, this activity funds training and substitute educator support in an effort to increase substitute qualifications and reduce substitute burnout and turnover. 

For this activity, CDEC partnered with Early Learning Ventures (ELV), a nonprofit serving child care providers with attentiveness to varying organizational sizes and technology accessibility. 

Key Outcomes and Learnings 

This strategy was slower to launch than others, and there is a limited understanding of needs and objectives for the substitute fund. Initial implementation efforts should focus on testing assumptions and understanding whether the envisioned program components can address the substitute shortage issue. 

The substitute fund will reduce the financial burden of placing substitute educators for licensed early childhood home care providers and programs. The use of software to help reduce overhead and expedite placement should also help reduce costs and make the use of substitutes to support the early childhood workforce easier.

blue gear labeled workforce


Amount: $1,165,350 


  • American Rescue Plan Discretionary
  • State and Local Federal Recovery Funds (SLFRF)

Expiration: June 30, 2025

Next Steps

Early Learning Ventures (ELV) has partnered with two substitute placement agencies (SPAs) and placements started in January 2024. Placements will continue as ELV works with several  placement models to ensure sustainability and scaling as a third SPA will be added in Summer 2024. 

Through SPA's, ELV will also engage in active substitute worker recruitment to grow the size of the workforce. 

Enhancements to the Core Alliance software being used to manage substitute workers will begin in Summer 2024 to help automate the placement process.This work will take place while ELV continues to capture data and develop metrics to guide the future of the project.


Evidence Brief

"Staffed Family Child Care Home (FCCH) Network and Substitute Fund" 

Marzano Research

(September 2023)



Additional Project Information

Five Substitute Placement Agencies (SPAs) are licensed in Colorado

  • Colorado Child Care Subs 
  • Early Childhood Hourly 
  • City of Aspen 
  • Kelly Services 
  • Wheelhouse Collaborative 

New Substitute Placement Agencies may be eligible for financial and technical support in acquiring their SPA license.