The Economic Impact of Early Childcare

April 8, 2019

As a longtime early childhood advocate I am encouraged by the conversations we are having in Hartford addressing the economic impact of early childcare. Our policies must be focused on supporting families with young children through an approach that looks also at the dollars and cents involved in children’s success.

After all, if parents can’t find care, can’t afford care, or simply don’t know what quality care looks like, then they cannot work to provide for their families today. It also limits their ability to provide a stable and secure tomorrow.

Science tells us that the early childhood years are the most critical for a child’s development. And, unfortunately in the United States, we need to do more to give all students a strong start by setting a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Additionally, caregivers need access to resources and information to raise healthy, happy and safe children.

In Connecticut, the average annual cost of infant care at a facility is over $15,000 - more than the annual cost of tuition at a public university. For two kids, an infant and a 4 year old, the cost is more than $27,500. Additionally, the percent of income spent on child care, if you were a single parent of two children, it would be 88.7% of your income. The deck is stacked against us, here in Connecticut, and across the nation.

We’ve worked hard to grow opportunities for care in Branford for ALL families regardless of income. Through the School Readiness Grant, the expansion of public pre-K and the sheer number and variety of different early care settings in town, Branford is more fortunate than other communities. Licensed home care settings are still harder to come by and high operational costs can be an obstacle for small family-owned businesses. We have to be careful that we are not driving an industry underground where the quality and safety of children may be compromised. In fact, between the spring of 2016 and the fall of 2017 in Connecticut, there have been 9 infant deaths, 6 of those occurring in unregulated care.

Data show that the change in percent of Kindergartners with Pre-K experience in Branford from 2013-2014 to 2015-2016 decreased -13.1%. At a time when we’ve been working so hard expanding public preschool for four year olds, this may reflect a greater variety of needs in our community and across the state.

In a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “30 percent of respondents reported challenges in finding care that was affordable, high quality, convenient, had open slots, available on an emergency/sick child basis, or available outside Monday-Friday.” Non-traditional jobs are growing and it is more common to hold several part time jobs to make ends meet.

It’s no surprise that childcare issues affect work productivity and impact career opportunities.

Employers are also at a disadvantage. When something unexpected arises, parents may need to leave work or miss additional days to care for a sick child. A recent study by Ready Nation reported $57 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue is due to childcare challenges.

As a state it is time to look at these realities and start creating incentives for the business community to institute working family-centered programs and services that would benefit their employees. This will lead to better productivity and long term success for families in this state. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the legislature, our commissioners and all the stakeholders involved to identify viable opportunities for supporting our working families and our industry of childcare providers.