Childcare Panel Develops Priorities
As it prepares to share its recommendations to Gov. Ned Lamont, Connecticut’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Childcare met Sept. 20 at the state Capitol.
Lamont established the panel in March to develop a strategic plan for an accessible, equitable, high-quality, and affordable childcare system for all families in Connecticut.
“This kind of prioritization for childcare in Connecticut has not happened in my career in 40 years with this level of engagement and participation,” said Office of Early Childhood commissioner Beth Bye, who leads the panel.
The panel is composed of early childhood providers, business leaders, policymakers, and community leaders.
The panel has held forums and listening sessions to get the perspectives of businesses, parents, advocates, and other stakeholders across the state.
“Today,” Bye said, “the pressure builds as we move toward prioritizing recommendations.”
Investing in Early Childcare
As the panel considered its recommendations, they heard from Dr. Dan Wuori, senior director of early learning at The Hunt Institute, a national nonprofit focused on education issues.
He shared the Heckman Curve, which highlights the importance of investing in early childcare, especially for infants and toddlers.
Research showed a 13% return on investment from high quality early childhood programs.
“There are fewer cases of need for remediation or education,” he said.
“There is a decreased need for social services. There are fewer interactions with the criminal justice system.”
“On the positive side, they have been shown in longitudinal studies to have higher incomes ,to have more stable marriages and family lives.”
Wuori also highlighted the investments other states are making to tackle the crisis.
But he also noted that Connecticut’s blue ribbon panel is unique.
“Lots of states are grappling with these issues,” he said, “but not in nearly the kind of systematic way that I felt like this panel has been undertaking the conversation.”
“Part of the reason that this is gaining traction on a bipartisan basis is a growing recognition of the costs of our inaction,” Wuori said.
Wuori cited a Ready Nation report noting the nation’s economy loses $122 billion annually from a lack of infant and toddler care.
Wuori said the majority of that is borne by parents, primarily in the form of forgone wages.
The report found:
- 64% of parents reported being late to work or having to leave early from work due childcare.
- 58% said they’d missed at least one full day of work because of childcare challenges.
- Half reported being distracted at work, and are foregoing promotions and additional job training.
Meanwhile, employers are missing out on $23 billion in lost productivity, and having difficulty retaining and hiring employees.
Wuori said Connecticut’s economy alone loses $1.5 billion annually due to diminished access to infant and toddler care.
Those losses come from a lack of childcare workers who could be paying taxes, but also those parents who are unable to work because of childcare challenges.
“If parents don’t have access to affordable childcare, and they aren’t able to go back to work, that hurts our economy on multiple fronts,” said CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima.
“At the same time, businesses will continue to struggle attracting new workers, and the state will struggle attracting new residents.”
As it puts together its plan and recommendations, the panel is focusing on five key pillars, equity, quality, affordable access, provider and system stability, and family and community voice.
The panel’s recommendations and investment priorities will address key areas including:
- Compensation and workforce development
- Increasing quality of early childhood programs
- Expanding affordability for families
- Increasing access to high-quality infant and toddler care, especially for under-resourced groups and communities
- Developing an equitable system that maximizes resources, reduces complexity, and improves enrollment
- Building a sustainable funding system that efficiently leverages investments
“They’re all intertwined, but we think each stands alone and needs our attention,” said Bye.
“If we create an affordable system that isn’t high quality, you don’t get the return on investment.”
One of the priorities for the panel is to increase compensation for childcare providers and workers.
“We’ve got to get these folks’ wages up,” said DiPentima. “That includes more funding from the state for those who are in state programs.”
“For those in the private sector, we’ve got to get them grant money they can use to increase wages.”
Civil Service Employees Association Family Child Care Union president Kathleen Lantigua noted that many providers struggle to pay staff minimum wage, and most don’t get benefits like health insurance or 401K.
“When it comes to quality, staff is very important,” she added.
“If you don’t have the right amount of staff, you can’t provide a high quality when it comes to childcare.”
To help alleviate staffing shortages, the panel is looking into increase instructor-to-child ratios, while still protecting the quality and safety.
They are also considering aligning the state with federal certification programs to bring more people into the profession.
The panel also highlighted the importance of home and family childcare businesses, and making sure they are sustainable.
“We talked about the critical role that family childcare businesses play in communities,” said All Our Kin co-founder and CEO Jessica Sager.
“When one of these businesses closes, the cost is enormous and it is so much harder to rebuild than to sustain.”
Bye noted that while Connecticut won’t be able to do everything in the panel’s plan, the “state’s economy is depending on our decisions.”
“And I think most importantly, those little brains that are making a million connections a second in the first months of life, those children and their families are depending on us to make progress,” she said.
“It’s a big issue and we’re going to solve it,” added DiPentima.
EXPLORE BY CATEGORY
Stay Connected with CBIA News Digests
The latest news and information delivered directly to your inbox.