By Erin Porteous, CEO

Becoming a parent in the last year has brought countless changes to my life. The daily necessities of feeding and clothing my daughter, making sure we read to her every night, debating if and when she should ever have “screen time,” and remembering to keep the most important screen on hand – sunscreen. (Let’s not forget our 300 days of sunshine a year.) These are just a few of what feel like hundreds of new responsibilities and decisions I face every day as a new mom.

But of all the challenges and stresses that come with parenting, one issue weighs on working parents more than any other: reliable, affordable child care. Whether it’s daycare, in-home care or making the decision to leave the professional landscape for the full time job of parenting, this topic is personal and emotional, and it takes a toll on every family.

By Erin Porteous, CEO

Becoming a parent in the last year has brought countless changes to my life. The daily necessities of feeding and clothing my daughter, making sure we read to her every night, debating if and when she should ever have “screen time,” and remembering to keep the most important screen on hand – sunscreen. (Let’s not forget our 300 days of sunshine a year.) These are just a few of what feel like hundreds of new responsibilities and decisions I face every day as a new mom.

But of all the challenges and stresses that come with parenting, one issue weighs on working parents more than any other: reliable, affordable child care. Whether it’s daycare, in-home care or making the decision to leave the professional landscape for the full time job of parenting, this topic is personal and emotional, and it takes a toll on every family.

I grew up in a home with two working parents who made tremendous sacrifices to ensure that my brother and I had our basic needs met. My mom was a nurse and my dad was a teacher. When I came along, my mom put me in the hospital’s daycare program. She made $6.85 an hour, and child care was $3 an hour. Her take home pay was less than $4 an hour after paying for my child care.

A few years later, my mom made the decision to work nights at the hospital. This resulted in a slightly higher paycheck and reliable child care for me and my brother, because my dad was home at night while my mom worked, and she was home during the day – sleeping while we were at school, and there when we walked home in the afternoon.

Yet, with no family in town, and a limited list of babysitters, when I asked my mom, “What did you do if you had to call in sick?” her answer was simple: you didn’t. The reality is, for the majority of families in Colorado, they can’t afford to call in sick, either. And that becomes a constant source of fear, anxiety and stress.

So parents are faced with an impossible decision: knowing that attending to their child’s immediate needs could cost them their job and their family’s economic livelihood. Across Colorado, 12% of all children under 6 years old had a parent who had to quit a job, not take a job, or greatly change their job because of problems with child care, according to a recent survey. And I can’t tell you how many times we’ll have a situation at our Boys & Girls Clubs where a child is sick, but their parent is adamant that they cannot come pick up their son or daughter until after work or after their shift. Many parents of our Club kids work grueling hours, and many work multiple jobs, to keep a roof over their family’s heads and food on the table.

Add to this another harsh reality: Colorado is the 7th most expensive state in America for child care. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, child care is affordable if it costs no more than 7% of a family’s income. By this standard, 93.8% of Colorado families cannot afford infant care. Here are some other stats to put this in perspective:

  • The average cost of child care for 4-year-olds in Colorado is $9,619 annually, and $12,736 annually for infantscomparable to the cost of one year of tuition and fees at one of our state colleges and universities.
  • Infant care is nearly 10% more than the average rent.
  • In Colorado, single parents pay 49.2% of their income for infant center care.


When parents don’t have access to dependable child care they can afford, it undermines their ability to work. They miss work or have to drop out of the workforce altogether. This creates headaches for employers and diminishes our workforce, which has a negative impact on our economy, our communities and our families. The lack of affordable child care affects all of us, not just working parents. 

Here I am, nearly three decades after my mom and dad walked this same path, tackling work and child care demands with my husband: navigating two full-time jobs that require travel, sharing duties as parents and partners, and some days when our child care option is not available, feeling like we are playing a game of hot potato – but with much higher stakes. That’s one reason why, when our daughter is old enough, she will become a member of Boys & Girls Club and spend her after school time in the dynamic learning and support environment of her local Club.

At just $2 for an annual membership, Boys & Girls Clubs is one of the most affordable child care options in the U.S. We provide a safe, stimulating, consistent environment – every day after school and all summer long – chock full of enriching activities, from sports to art to computer science. These are spaces where we nurture curiosity and joy, and support academics and learning so-called “soft skills” too: problem solving, healthy decision-making, building character and leadership. Opportunities for our members to flourish are plentiful, and the relief that comes to both kids and their parents from the constancy of free snacks and hot dinners served at our Clubs every night cannot be overstated.

More than ever, Boys & Girls Clubs are playing a vital role in our increasingly expensive Colorado landscape. We give invaluable support and peace of mind to working parents. We’re a force for good in our local economy and our communities. And, for nearly 60 years, we’ve offered a positive solution to the generation-defying problem of ensuring every family has access to a safe, reliable, fun place for their kids to go when their parents are working.

Knowing the Boys & Girls Clubs will be there for my daughter when she comes of age gives me a deep sense of pride and gratitude. It fuels my passion for ensuring that we continue to be an asset to Metro Denver communities, far beyond my tenure as CEO. Now if I can just remember to put sunscreen on my daughter those 300 sunny days a year, I can cross that challenge off my list and tackle the next 99.