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Posts Tagged ‘#SolveChildCare’

“As Governor Maura Healey takes the helm of Massachusetts state government, a new report is detailing an uphill battle for one of her key priorities: The high cost of child care.

“The new data from the Department of Labor show parents in two Massachusetts counties pay the third-highest child care prices in the nation. The annual cost of infant center-based child care in Middlesex and Norfolk counties was more than $26,000, according to the data, eating up nearly 20 percent of median family budgets. Only parents in Arlington County in Virginia and San Francisco County in California paid higher sums.

“Though Middlesex and Norfolk topped the list, Suffolk and Essex counties also ranked in the top 20 for infant child care costs, and all 14 Mass. counties appeared in the top 100 among more than 2,800 counties nationwide for which data were available.”

“ ‘All across the country, families are facing burdensome childcare expenses. The last few years have highlighted the tension parents experience when they need to go to work to provide for their families, but have difficulty doing so if they can’t access affordable child care,’ Labor Dept. Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon said in a press release.”

“Eastern Mass. has some of the highest child care costs in the country,” by Christina Prignano and Ryan Huddle, The Boston Globe, January 31, 2023

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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.”

(more…)

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“There was never much doubt that House and Senate Democrats would return Ron Mariano [the House Speaker] and Karen Spilka [the Senate President] to the top posts in the Legislature for the two-year term that started Wednesday, but the occasion did produce glimpses into the policy areas where each veteran legislative leader will attempt to wield their supermajority margins in the coming months.”

“Mariano and Spilka voiced mutual interest Wednesday in addressing the slow-burning crisis in the early education and child care sector, where providers are coping with widespread staffing shortages, workers are languishing on low wages and families are struggling to pay for care, if they can even find available slots.

“ ‘We know how important early education and care is, both to addressing the “she-cession” that worsened during the pandemic and in preparing our children to learn. Simply put, it is past time to update the way we imagine and support this crucial sector,’ Spilka said.

“The Senate unanimously approved a bill in July seeking a years-long expansion of subsidies, increased pay and benefits for workers, and permanent grants to stabilize providers, but the timing of the bill’s passage left the House with little time to fashion a response.

“Mariano’s comments on Wednesday could signal that he wants his chamber to get more involved in the issue this time around, though he stopped short of embracing the expansive proposal backed by the Senate last session.

“ ‘This session, the full attention of the House will be directed at examining ways to further support our vital early education and care workforce,” Mariano said. “This workforce is made up largely of women and often women of color. As we work to build a system to provide affordable access to quality child care for Massachusetts families, I was proud of the work done last session to increase salaries and other key supports for EEC workers, and I’m confident that the Legislature can do more on this critical issue.’ ”

“Speaker Mariano and President Spilka share some top priorities in new legislative session,” by Chris Lisinski and Sam Drysdale, State House News Service, posted on WGBH’s website, January 4, 2023

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In the shadow of the pandemic, there is positive and welcome progress in federal investments in child care. 

One example of this positive trend is the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (also known as the omnibus bill) that President Biden signed into law at the end of last year.

“The appropriation for fiscal year (FY) 2023 included more than $8 billion in total annual discretionary funds for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) in addition to increases for other important child care and early education programs such as Head Start,” the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) explains.

“The FY 2023 CCDBG appropriation of $8 billion represented a $1.9 billion increase above the previous year’s funding, a 30 percent increase. This is the second largest increase in discretionary funding in the history of CCDBG—following the $2.4 billion increase in FY 2018.”

Specifically, this funding helps low-income families who would otherwise struggle to afford child care.

 “The increases in 2023 for each state range from $2 million in Vermont to $209 million in Texas.”

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“Last week, while history was being made on the floor of the House of Representatives, a (mostly) quieter, but no less historic event was happening in the Democratic cloak room.

“Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) brought his 4-month-old baby to work. In between votes, he changed diapers on the Democratic cloak room floor and bottle-fed his child. And Gomez wasn’t the only one on daddy duty in the House. Other parents — including Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) — brought their children to work as well. Yes, it was adorable and brightened up an otherwise dour C-SPAN feed. But the tweets about bringing babies to work, swapping parenting tips and taking breaks to feed and change also highlight a problem that is no stranger to the vast majority of this country’s parents.

“Child care is out of reach for many families in America. For most, it is too expensive and too hard to access. Parents, early learning providers and program administrators are overwhelmed, overburdened and under-resourced — and everyone is feeling the impact. Even our members of Congress.”

“America 2023: When even members of Congress don’t have child care,” by Michelle McCready, The Hill, January 9, 2023

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“The strength of Massachusetts is its families. And they sorely need our help. Our state has some of the highest child care costs in the country. Our care workers don’t make a livable wage.

“So today, let us pledge to be the first state to solve the child care crisis. Let’s finally pass legislation in line with Common Start to make sure every family pays what they can afford, and that care workers are paid what they deserve. This is something our families, workers, and businesses all agree on.”

“Read Gov. Maura Healey’s inaugural speech,” WBUR Newsroom, January 05, 2023

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Krongkan “Cherry” Bovornkeeratiroj

Krongkan “Cherry” Bovornkeeratiroj

“In Amherst, I had the chance to volunteer with young children, and that changed my life,” Krongkan “Cherry” Bovornkeeratiroj, an intern at Strategies for Children (SFC), told us in a recent interview. 

This story started six years ago when Cherry moved from Thailand, where she worked as a financial auditor, to Amherst, Mass., where her husband is a graduate student — and where she volunteered to work in a preschool program. 

Cherry was used to the more formal educational approach that she had experienced in Thailand. Amherst was different.

“Our school system focuses heavily on academics and rarely teaches us to speak for ourselves. Most of the time we listen and listen.”

“The first day I walked into the classroom in Amherst, I saw kids enjoying activities. There were no chairs in rows.”

It was a high-quality program where children’s feedback was valued. For example, in the case of one child bumping into another, teachers would ask what the harmed child needed: a hug, an apology, an ice pack? 

 “Instead of lecturing, teachers asked students questions and encouraged them to think critically,” Cherry says.

This volunteer experience prompted her to apply to graduate school.

“But when I was admitted, I found out I was pregnant.” And the pandemic hit. So Cherry waited for a couple of years, then she enrolled in the Master of Arts (MA) in Leadership, Policy & Advocacy for Early Childhood Well-Being program at the Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

“Once I shared my passions with my academic advisor, she told me to talk to Amy,” Cherry says of Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s executive director.

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poll photo

Photo: Huong Vu for Strategies for Children

The results are in!

A new statewide poll sponsored by the Common Start Coalition has found that “73 percent of the state’s voters” back “the Common Start proposal to create a universal childcare program in Massachusetts.” Only 18 percent of respondents oppose the idea.

“Support is up nearly 10 points from two years ago, when the corresponding margin on this question was 64%-23%,” according to a memo from Beacon Research, the organization that conducted the poll.

The poll was conducted last month and surveyed 817 Massachusetts voters.

Most of these voters acknowledge three facts that are driving “the push to create a universal childcare program:”

• too many families can’t afford the high cost of child care

• child care workers are significantly underpaid, and

• state government should play a role in addressing these challenges

The poll also found that 58 percent of respondents favor “increasing taxpayer funding for childcare programs in Massachusetts,” a jump up from two years ago when 48 percent of respondents supported this idea.

(more…)

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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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