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Screenshot 2023-01-31 at 2.04.53 AM

Screenshot: Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation

The good news: since the start of the pandemic, Massachusetts has seen increased investments in child care, up to $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2023.

The bad news: these investments aren’t paying off the way they could.

A new report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) — Preparing for Child Care Reform: How to Improve the Subsidy System to Maximize Future Investment — points to a key problem, noting:

“The subsidized child care system in Massachusetts is complicated and inefficient. The result of a state-federal partnership, it serves three different eligible populations with two different forms of subsidies and uses multiple funding streams.”

“Massachusetts is to be commended for its substantial investment in child care in recent years; unfortunately, the subsidy system is complex and inefficient,” Doug Howgate, MTF’s president says in a press release.

Among the results of this systemic failure, the report says, is “lagging enrollment numbers, financially unstable providers, and disruptions and delays in care for families.”

According to MTF’s previous research, this complicated inefficiency comes at a high cost: “due to inadequate child care, Massachusetts loses roughly $2.7 billion a year in lost earnings for employees, additional costs and lower productivity for employers, and in reduced tax revenues.”

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“In an effort to recruit and retain staff amid a national workforce shortage, the University of Vermont Health Network has broken ground on a second new apartment building for employees — a project that will also include a child care center for staff. 

“ ‘To do what we need to do to fill our vacant positions with permanent employees, rather than our more expensive, temporary workers, we really need to have more housing,’ said Sunil ‘Sunny’ Eappen, the network’s new president and chief executive officer, at a press conference in South Burlington on Thursday.

“Despite receiving $55 million in one-time federal and state funds to cover pandemic-related expenses, UVM Health Network ended its fiscal year on Sept. 30 with a $90 million loss that officials attributed primarily to staffing costs. Like hospitals across the country, UVM facilities relied heavily on temporary workers while staffing waned during the pandemic.”

“The second new apartment building will be located next to the first and will have 120 units ranging from studios to two bedrooms, again with priority given to hospital employees for the first 10 years. The site is also set to include a child care center with initial capacity for up to 75 children, focused on infants to pre-K. That building is expected to open in early 2024.

“Rebecca ‘Becky’ Kapsalis, associate vice president of talent acquisition for UVM Health Network, said it has been disappointing and frustrating to see how many prospective hires are declining offers because of their inability to find housing or quality child care. Kapsalis said some employees have even had to resign within months of being hired because of their inability to find long-term housing.

“Aly Richards, CEO of Let’s Grow Kids, said Thursday that 8,700 children across Vermont need child care. Parents who have found child care are paying 30% to 40% of their income, and yet early educators aren’t making a livable wage. 

“ ‘The only way to fix it is public policy change and public investment, because it’s a broken business model,’ Richards said.”

“UVM Health Network investing in additional 120-apartment building with child care center,” by Juliet Schulman-Hall, VTDigger, December 15, 2022

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Who should be talking about child care? Parents, providers, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. 

All three of these groups know that high-quality child care is essential for families and for the economy.

So please join in tomorrow (Wednesday, December 14, 2022) at 7:00 p.m. on Zoom for a conversation about parents’ and caregivers’ perspectives on child care solutions. 

Hosted by the Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood Initiative and Strategies for Children, this event will feature Sarah Savage, a senior policy analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, who will share preliminary findings from the Fed’s “2022 Child Care Survey: Intersections of Parental Care Needs and Work in New England.”

The event will also include small group discussions where participants can discuss unmet needs, priorities, and solutions.

Parents, of course, are experts, especially when it comes to child care needs that they can’t fill. As one Mom who wanted to work a second job explains in a Federal Reserve video (posted above), “I needed a night job to keep up with the bills.” But she would have needed child care at night, and “There’s no such thing as night care. It’s tough when you need the care and it’s not available.” 

Sharing these valuable perspectives is crucial for making progress. To make the event more inclusive, Spanish and Portuguese interpreters will be available. And invitations to the event written in different languages are posted here.

Please sign up and join the conversation – and share this information with families and colleagues in your network. 

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“Our child care system is broken.”

“Initially, to address this crisis as an employer, I considered hosting onsite child care; however, I quickly realized this was a mere stop-gap to a much larger, systemic challenge. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions, which is why the only solution to Vermont’s child care crisis is increasing public investment in our 0-5 child care system. Not just temporarily, but for the long-term, with a sustainable funding source.”

“Column: Lack of child care hinders small businesses,” by Sam Hooper, Valley News, October 25, 2022

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“Over the past couple years, Vermont has seen an influx of thousands of new people and families moving to the state. In Chittenden County alone, from 2020 to 2021, 605 new businesses launched or opened new locations, a massive spike over the previous year. However, it’s increasingly challenging to find workers here in Vermont or those willing and able to relocate and the top reason we hear is lack of high-quality, affordable child care. It’s estimated that there are over 5,000 parents living in Vermont right now who want to work but can’t because they don’t have the child care they need.”

“Hamel, Grace & Wall: The weight of the child care crisis is crushing Vermont’s workforce,” by Carina Hamel, Aba Grace & Tim Wall, Vermont Business Magazine, October 27. 2022 

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If workers’ salaries were based on the value they provide to society, Andre Green, the executive director of the local nonprofit SkillWorks writes in a new Boston Foundation report, “few people would make more than child-care workers, home care workers, and long-term care facility workers. Almost none of us will get through life without needing at least one of them.”

Unfortunately, care workers typically receive low salaries and limited appreciation.

The report – “Care Work in Massachusetts: A Call for Racial and Economic Justice for a Neglected Sector” — adds:

“Over centuries, policies driven by racism, xenophobia, and misogyny have closed professional doorways and shunted many women of color, particularly immigrant women, into care work, where they contend with low wages, few benefits, and challenging working conditions. As this segment of our economy continues to grow, these issues will confront more and more workers until they are addressed.”

“Nothing made the importance—or precarity—of care work clearer than the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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“More than two years after the start of the pandemic, the child care workforce—mostly employing women and, disproportionately, women of color—continues to operate below pre-pandemic levels. This not only harms the sector but also precludes workers with caregiving responsibilities, primarily mothers, from fully participating in the labor force.”

“Without new government investments aimed directly at improving job quality—including through increasing wages for staff—the child care sector will not make up its significant shortfall in workers. Policymakers must meet the moment and invest in child care immediately, particularly since child care workers are essential to keeping the U.S. economy strong.”

“The Child Care Sector Will Continue To Struggle Hiring Staff Unless It Creates Good Jobs,” by Maureen Coffey and Rose Khattar, The Center for American Progress, September 2, 2022

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The FY23 state budget is late this year, but legislators are very close to a deal. A 6-member conference committee is meeting now to finalize differences between the House and Senate budget proposals.

For early education and care, there is $344 million at stake

That’s the difference between the House and Senate proposals. There’s $250 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants in the Senate proposal, and $70 million in rates in the House proposal, which includes $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal child care. 

Click this link to email the conference committee today, and ask them to advocate for early education and care in the conference committee budget.

If you have already taken action in recent weeks, take action again. As they finalize the state budget, our legislators need to hear from advocates for early education and care.

Our state continues to have record revenue surpluses. Not only can Massachusetts easily afford to fully fund early education and care – we can’t afford not to!

State funding is essential for continued recovery of our field. 

Ongoing staffing shortages mean that early education and care programs are open but operating with lower enrollment and closed classrooms.

Many industries are experiencing similar shortages, but a workforce shortage in child care means people cannot return to work and our state and local economy cannot fully recover.

Ask the conference committee to invest in high-quality early education and care, for young children, families, educators, and communities. 

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“Just as the Senate led on transforming the Commonwealth’s K-12 education system through the Student Opportunity Act, today’s bill would similarly transform the early education system,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Unfortunately, high-quality early education remains out of reach for most Massachusetts families, and our providers struggle to keep their doors open. This bill will address those issues and make our Commonwealth stronger by making early education more affordable, investing in our early educators, and ensuring the sustainability of our providers.”

“With this bill, we are creating a framework to support the early education and care sector; making clear that the Senate understands the vital importance of early childhood to our economic recovery and to the health and wellbeing of Massachusetts families,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I am proud of this bill and the work that has gone into it. I thank the Senate President for her leadership in prioritizing this issue, and I want thank Senator Lewis for thoughtfully and collaboratively putting this important legislation together.”

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“It takes a village to raise a child — or as Mayor Eric Adams puts it, these days it takes a city.”

“There’s currently only one available child-care slot for every five infants in New York City, the city said. However, the mayor said he hopes that the Blueprint for Child Care & Early Childhood Education in New York City will change that number.”

“Adams on Tuesday released a blueprint outlining a multi-agency $2 billion investment over the next four years that he said will increase the quality of child care and early childhood education — make them more accessible and equitable.

“More than 500,000 children under the age of 5 will benefit from the plan, including undocumented children and their families, the mayor said.”

“ ‘As a child, my mother had to work three jobs and still find a way to take care of me and my siblings. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 375,000 parents were forced to quit or downshift their jobs because they had no other way to take care of their children. Now, my administration is working to make sure no parent has to make that hard choice between childcare and putting food on their table again,’ said Adams.”

“ ‘It takes a city:’ Mayor creates $2B plan to improve child care, early childhood education in NYC,” by Kristin F. Dalton, silive.com,

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State House_SFC

Amy O’Leary at the Massachusetts State House in 2011

We’re thrilled to wish Amy O’Leary a happy 20th anniversary! She started working at Strategies for Children on June 24, 2002.

We sat down with O’Leary to talk about this milestone.

“I have to say how grateful I am to have been at Strategies for Children for the last 20 years,” O’Leary says. “I would have never imagined that I would have this kind of job.”

O’Leary’s work with young children started at Skidmore College where she earned a degree in psychology and early education.

“I didn’t do a traditional K-12 education major,” O’Leary recalls, “because I was very interested in understanding why children did what they did, and how they sat in the context of family and community.” 

O’Leary’s campus job as a financial aid student was working as a classroom assistant at the Skidmore Early Childhood Center, a laboratory school affiliated with Skidmore’s Education Department, where she also did her student-teaching. 

“It was such an important part of my college experience to have that world where I could go three times a week, whether it was to my campus job or [for] student teaching, and develop relationships with families.”

“I don’t think I realized how wonderful the program was, and how it prepared me for my next job as a preschool teacher in Boston.”

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