High-quality care for a baby or a toddler can be extremely hard to come by -- and when it’s available, it’s often not affordable. As a result, budgets are squeezed, families are forced to settle for lower-quality care, and mothers in particular often don’t have a real choice about whether to take time out of the paid workforce to be caregivers. This is true across the country and in our own backyard.
Nancy Marshall, Ed.D., and Wendy Wagner Robeson, Ed.D., senior research scientists in our Work, Families, & Children Research Group, recently assisted with a report on the state of early education and child care in Boston. The report examined responses to the city’s 2019 census, which included questions about child care for the first time, as well as data from the Boston Public Schools, Boston Public Health Commission, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), U.S. Census Bureau, and the United Way DRIVE Initiative.
The findings were striking: Boston faces a significant gap when it comes to child care access -- about 26,000 spots with licensed providers for over 40,000 children ages 0-5. And going by the standard of federal guidelines, which recommend spending no more than 10 percent of income on child care, the average cost of infant care is unaffordable in every neighborhood in the city.
In response to these staggering statistics, the city created the Childcare Entrepreneur Fund Pilot -- a program designed to support owners of family child care businesses in Boston by providing business training and grant funding. Workshops for the participants are taking place now, and funds will be dispersed in the spring.
This is an important first step toward increasing the quantity and quality of child care in Boston. It could become a model for other cities, and offer one potential way forward on a national level. Improving access to child care in the U.S. will take hard work and innovative ideas from a wide range of people and organizations, and we’re proud to do our part.
March 16, 2020