The Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado family application portal is open! Get more info here.

Colorado Department of Early Childhood begins supporting children, families and early childhood professionals

Hide Featured Image



Lynlee Espeseth

Communications Manager



Colorado Department of Early Childhood begins supporting children, families and early childhood professionals

The new agency is now delivering services to children birth through 5+ and their families

Denver (July 5, 2022) — The Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) became operational as of July 1, 2022. CDEC’s launch marks a major milestone in the implementation of the stakeholder-driven Department of Early Childhood Transition Plan, the ensuing bipartisan legislation HB22-1295 sponsored by Speaker Alec Garnett, Rep. Emily Sirota, Senate President Steve Fenberg and Senator Janet Buckner, and Colorado’s voter approved universal preschool program, which will save families an average of $4,300 per year. Under the leadership of Executive Director Dr. Lisa Roy, the Department elevates early childhood to cabinet-level status and creates a more cohesive system to better serve Colorado’s children and families. 

Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, the Department will deliver at least ten hours of voter-approved, universal, high quality, voluntary preschool to every child in the year before kindergarten, in the licensed child care setting of a family’s choosing. Additional hours of care will be available for children in-need. CDEC will administer other child care related services, such as the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) and programs to support and develop the early care and education workforce. The Department will also administer family strengthening programs, taking a holistic approach to serving the whole child and whole family. 

“Free preschool and lower cost high quality childcare will save people money. And now that we have fully implemented free full-day kindergarten, we’re laying the foundation for Colorado’s voter approved free universal preschool program. The Early Childhood Department will reduce bureaucracy, streamline the entire early childhood system for every Colorado family and cut red tape. Rather than different forms for different funding sources we are going to consolidate into a single, easy form for parents. There is no better investment than an investment in education and our children’s future,” said Gov. Polis.

“This is a historic moment in Colorado. Under Governor Polis’ leadership, and together with a dedicated staff and early childhood stakeholder community, I will be working to make Colorado the best place in the country to raise young children, to help save families money, and to ensure that all Colorado kids and their families are valued, healthy and thriving,” said Executive Director Dr. Lisa Roy.

Over the coming months, CDEC will be working closely with its stakeholders to lay the groundwork for the Department and prepare for Universal Preschool. Rules will be promulgated, providing highly anticipated details for the Colorado Universal Preschool Program, such as the per-child funding rate and quality standards. 

The benefits of the early childhood programs delivered by the Department will be statewide, with a $5-$9 return on investment for every $1 spent on high quality early childhood programs. Children who attend high quality preschool are better prepared for school and more likely to have positive academic, social-emotional, health, and economic outcomes later in life. 


The Colorado Department of Early Childhood ensures the delivery of a comprehensive, community-informed, data-driven, high-quality and equitable early childhood system that supports the care, education and well-being of all Colorado’s young children, their families and early childhood professionals in all settings.

Learn more about the Colorado Department of Early Childhood at