Care4Kids enrollment down 7,500 since closing to new families

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / www.CtMirror.org

Hope Child Development Center in New Haven, where most of the children receive Care4Kids subsidies

Care4Kids, which once helped low-income parents of more than 22,000 children pay for day care so they could work, has reduced its enrollment by one-third, a year after closing to virtually all new applicants.

Child care providers are concerned that dwindling enrollment in the program is hurting their ability to fill open spots, which could mean lower staff ratios, closing classrooms or closing entire child care centers. The impact could be felt not just by Care4Kids families but by any family depending on a child care provider where Care4Kids children are enrolled.

Care4Kids enrollment dropped by 7,484 children — from 22,874 to 15,390 — from July 2016 to July 2017, according to state Office of Early Childhood data. (See town-by-town enrollment changes at the bottom of this story.)

The list of would-be eligible families waiting to get into the program has grown to 4,500 families, according to the state Office of Early Childhood. That’s less than the 5,000-family projection from earlier this year.

Costly federal rule changes

Eligibility for the program was tightened because, if it weren’t, federal rules changes — which came with no additional federal funding — would have cost the state an additional $33 million annually.

To lessen the paperwork burden on families, the federal changes allowed families to prove their continued eligibility once a year rather than every eight months. Parents who no longer qualified for a subsidy because their income increased or they lost their job also were allowed to remain in the program for a three-month grace period.

The changes have the effect of delaying the loss of eligibility for some families and thus slowing turnover and the availability of subsidies.

The program, which offers subsidies from about $40 to $337 per week, closed in two stages. In August 2016, enrollment was closed to working families earning less than 50 percent of the state median income. In December, it was closed to teenage parents attending high school, along with former recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, often referred to as welfare benefits. The only group currently eligible to enroll consists of working TANF recipients.

Day care decision-making

Child care providers say shrinking the Care4Kids program is making it harder to fill open slots — threatening programs that need a certain number of children to remain viable.

“We are experiencing openings in spaces that historically we don’t have openings in,” said Georgia Goldburn, director of the non-profit Hope Child Development Center in New Haven, which typically serves 70 to 75 children but is now down to about 60.

“For instance our infant room, we typically fill spots three, sometimes six months in advance,” Goldburn said. “One of our infant rooms currently has three spaces open.”

That might not sound like much, but infant programs are costly, with a minimum of one staff member per four children.

“You lose money on the infants and toddlers. You internally subsidize them with your preschool program,” said Merrill Gay, the executive director of the Early Childcare Alliance, which lobbies on behalf of providers.

For a program operating at the minimum ratio, one vacancy in four slots means providing care for the remaining three children costs 33 percent more in staff time per child.

“We have to maintain, for infants and toddlers, a ratio of four to one. We’re operating at a loss […] If we lost one child it’s an even bigger loss,” Goldburn said.

Goldburn said Hope prefers to operate with a lower child-to-staff ratio than is required. The three vacancies she mentioned are in a room that typically has eight children and three staff members. Three fewer children would mean cutting one staff member.

Child care providers are bracing for September, when older children, whose Care4Kids subsidy is grandfathered, enter kindergarten, and are not replaced with new Care4Kids children. “We expect to see an increased drop in the number of preschoolers on Care4Kids,” says an August policy brief from the CT Early Childhood Alliance and the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS).

In a survey described in the policy brief, child care providers reported an average loss of 13 Care4Kids children, and 88 percent of providers reported having more difficulty filling vacancies since Care4Kids closed to new applicants last August. Out of 191 providers that responded to the survey, 19 percent reported closing classrooms and 24 percent reported layoffs, like the one Goldburn would be faced with in that infant-toddler room.

In fiscal year 2017, 32 child care centers and 15 family care providers closed, saying they weren’t profitable, according to closure reports compiled by the United Way.  Gay — the executive director of the providers’ lobbying group — says he expects closures to increase as Care4Kids enrollment continues to dwindle.

Could the wait list shrink?

Officials say there could be limited progress on the horizon.

Chris McClure, spokesman for the governor’s Office of Policy and Management, said the limits put in place last year largely stemmed the Care4Kids program’s deficit, but a $400,000 appropriation from the state general fund was used to shore up the program. Care4Kids cost $124 million in the fiscal year that ended in June.

The governor has allocated $115 million for the program in his executive order, under which the state has been operating since July 1 in the absence of an adopted budget.

“Based on preliminary discussions with [the Office of Early Childhood], this amount should be sufficient enough to even start taking families off the waiting list and offering them subsidies later in the year (albeit, probably a small number),” McClure wrote in an email Wednesday. “Several iterations of legislative budgets have included a little over $10 million in additional funding for C4K’s in FY18, bringing the total appropriation to approximately $125 million. This would allow more families to come off the waiting list.”

Care4Kids enrollment declines, July 2016 to July 2017
This table lists the number of children enrolled in Care4Kids in July of 2016 and 2017. Overall the program has decreased by close to 7,500 children, or 33 percent.
Municipality 2016 2017 diff diff pct wealth rank
ANDOVER 8 4 4 50.0 106.0
ANSONIA 246 167 79 32.0 162.0
ASHFORD 12 7 5 42.0 123.0
AVON 15 8 7 47.0 22.0
BARKHAMSTED 2 0 2 100.0 93.0
BEACON FALLS 14 12 2 14.0 119.0
BERLIN 36 25 11 31.0 65.0
BETHANY 9 3 6 67.0 61.0
BETHEL 52 39 13 25.0 71.0
BETHLEHEM 7 3 4 57.0 62.0
BLOOMFIELD 168 81 87 52.0 81.0
BOLTON 3 1 2 67.0 80.0
BOZRAH 10 1 9 90.0 121.0
BRANFORD 88 60 28 32.0 45.0
BRIDGEPORT 2267 1421 846 37.0 166.0
BRIDGEWATER 0 0 0 13.0
BRISTOL 461 299 162 35.0 138.0
BROOKFIELD 24 28 -4 -17.0 36.0
BROOKLYN 41 26 15 37.0 148.0
BURLINGTON 11 8 3 27.0 72.0
CANAAN 11 8 3 27.0 50.0
CANTERBURY 4 2 2 50.0 133.0
CANTON 20 11 9 45.0 49.0
CHAPLIN 5 5 0 0.0 132.0
CHESHIRE 45 24 21 47.0 75.0
CHESTER 8 2 6 75.0 68.0
CLINTON 53 31 22 42.0 69.0
COLCHESTER 61 30 31 51.0 117.0
COLEBROOK 2 2 0 0.0 70.0
COLUMBIA 12 9 3 25.0 85.0
CORNWALL 1 1 0 0.0 14.0
COVENTRY 24 16 8 33.0 110.0
CROMWELL 44 37 7 16.0 79.0
DANBURY 543 321 222 41.0 122.0
DARIEN 9 4 5 56.0 4.0
DEEP RIVER 12 5 7 58.0 83.0
DERBY 123 78 45 37.0 158.0
DURHAM 7 4 3 43.0 56.0
EAST GRANBY 19 2 17 89.0 73.0
EAST HADDAM 19 9 10 53.0 87.0
EAST HAMPTON 41 31 10 24.0 84.0
EAST HARTFORD 740 411 329 44.0 159.0
EAST HAVEN 178 152 26 15.0 145.0
EAST LYME 34 31 3 9.0 66.0
EAST WINDSOR 78 60 18 23.0 115.0
EASTFORD 1 2 -1 -100.0 108.0
EASTON 1 0 1 100.0 19.0
ELLINGTON 37 16 21 57.0 97.0
ENFIELD 346 246 100 29.0 143.0
ESSEX 6 6 0 0.0 25.0
FAIRFIELD 43 23 20 47.0 16.0
FARMINGTON 49 23 26 53.0 29.0
FRANKLIN 4 4 0 0.0 86.0
GLASTONBURY 54 33 21 39.0 35.0
GOSHEN 9 8 1 11.0 34.0
GRANBY 8 4 4 50.0 54.0
GREENWICH 59 41 18 31.0 1.0
GRISWOLD 70 40 30 43.0 150.0
GROTON 215 131 84 39.0 104.0
GUILFORD 20 9 11 55.0 31.0
HADDAM 11 3 8 73.0 60.0
HAMDEN 337 266 71 21.0 135.0
HAMPTON 5 2 3 60.0 124.0
HARTFORD 2186 1367 819 37.0 169.0
HARTLAND 2 2 0 0.0 101.0
HARWINTON 3 1 2 67.0 64.0
HEBRON 23 12 11 48.0 98.0
KENT 6 1 5 83.0 28.0
KILLINGLY 106 76 30 28.0 147.0
KILLINGWORTH 5 4 1 20.0 39.0
LEBANON 17 9 8 47.0 111.0
LEDYARD 60 38 22 37.0 116.0
LISBON 14 9 5 36.0 113.0
LITCHFIELD 5 6 -1 -20.0 41.0
LYME 4 3 1 25.0 15.0
MADISON 8 7 1 12.0 24.0
MANCHESTER 556 400 156 28.0 137.0
MANSFIELD 26 13 13 50.0 156.0
MARLBOROUGH 14 5 9 64.0 82.0
MERIDEN 797 538 259 32.0 157.0
MIDDLEBURY 13 6 7 54.0 48.0
MIDDLEFIELD 7 7 0 0.0 76.0
MIDDLETOWN 363 216 147 40.0 131.0
MILFORD 103 59 44 43.0 52.0
MONROE 34 17 17 50.0 46.0
MONTVILLE 79 64 15 19.0 144.0
MORRIS 6 3 3 50.0 44.0
NAUGATUCK 286 185 101 35.0 154.0
NEW BRITAIN 1138 751 387 34.0 167.0
NEW CANAAN 13 8 5 38.0 2.0
NEW FAIRFIELD 18 15 3 17.0 51.0
NEW HARTFORD 4 4 0 0.0 92.0
NEW HAVEN 2346 1820 526 22.0 161.0
NEW LONDON 369 231 138 37.0 164.0
NEW MILFORD 142 93 49 35.0 74.0
NEWINGTON 104 54 50 48.0 105.0
NEWTOWN 21 10 11 52.0 43.0
NORFOLK 9 4 5 56.0 30.0
NORTH BRANFORD 40 25 15 38.0 88.0
NORTH CANAAN 11 6 5 45.0 127.0
NORTH HAVEN 46 35 11 24.0 59.0
NORTH STONINGTON 22 3 19 86.0 94.0
NORWALK 400 256 144 36.0 38.0
NORWICH 415 298 117 28.0 163.0
OLD LYME 3 1 2 67.0 20.0
OLD SAYBROOK 13 7 6 46.0 21.0
ORANGE 11 7 4 36.0 32.0
OXFORD 18 14 4 22.0 58.0
PLAINFIELD 103 68 35 34.0 151.0
PLAINVILLE 75 59 16 21.0 129.0
POMFRET CENTER 14 13 1 7.0
PORTLAND 39 17 22 56.0 90.0
PRESTON 6 7 -1 -17.0 118.0
PROSPECT 17 16 1 6.0 103.0
PUTNAM 92 56 36 39.0 155.0
REDDING 1 0 1 100.0 18.0
RIDGEFIELD 8 1 7 88.0 10.0
ROCKY HILL 48 32 16 33.0 67.0
ROXBURY 2 0 2 100.0 7.0
SALEM 13 6 7 54.0 91.0
SALISBURY 1 3 -2 -200.0 9.0
SCOTLAND 1 1 0 0.0 140.0
SEYMOUR 92 54 38 41.0 130.0
SHARON 5 2 3 60.0 11.0
SHELTON 117 95 22 19.0 57.0
SHERMAN 3 0 3 100.0 17.0
SIMSBURY 31 8 23 74.0 42.0
SOMERS 15 10 5 33.0 125.0
SOUTH WINDSOR 40 37 3 8.0 63.0
SOUTHBURY 18 12 6 33.0 55.0
SOUTHINGTON 119 84 35 29.0 100.0
SPRAGUE 22 13 9 41.0 149.0
STAFFORD 50 30 20 40.0 142.0
STAMFORD 523 320 203 39.0 27.0
STERLING 13 13 0 0.0 152.0
STONINGTON 91 49 42 46.0 37.0
STRATFORD 303 265 38 13.0 112.0
SUFFIELD 24 16 8 33.0 102.0
TERRYVILLE 43 29 14 33.0
THOMASTON 36 25 11 31.0 134.0
THOMPSON 19 10 9 47.0 139.0
TOLLAND 22 12 10 45.0 78.0
TORRINGTON 278 200 78 28.0 153.0
TRUMBULL 40 35 5 12.0 40.0
UNION 0 0 0 77.0
VERNON 281 161 120 43.0 136.0
VOLUNTOWN 5 6 -1 -20.0 128.0
WALLINGFORD 222 167 55 25.0 96.0
WARREN 2 1 1 50.0 12.0
WASHINGTON 5 4 1 20.0 8.0
WATERBURY 1609 1173 436 27.0 165.0
WATERFORD 49 29 20 41.0 33.0
WATERTOWN 90 57 33 37.0 114.0
WEST HARTFORD 132 90 42 32.0 53.0
WEST HAVEN 564 479 85 15.0 160.0
WESTBROOK 15 5 10 67.0 23.0
WESTON 2 1 1 50.0 5.0
WESTPORT 12 9 3 25.0 3.0
WETHERSFIELD 87 51 36 41.0 107.0
WILLINGTON 15 7 8 53.0 126.0
WILTON 2 0 2 100.0 6.0
WINCHESTER 64 42 22 34.0 141.0
WINDHAM/WILLIMANTIC 335 261 74 22.0
WINDSOR 189 125 64 34.0 95.0
WINDSOR LOCKS 78 39 39 50.0 99.0
WOLCOTT 47 33 14 30.0 120.0
WOODBRIDGE 8 4 4 50.0 26.0
WOODBURY 8 5 3 38.0 47.0
WOODSTOCK 21 17 4 19.0 109.0
Total 22874 15390 7484 33.0
CTCare4Kids.com, State Department of Education Wealth Rank
Jacqueline Rabe contributed to this report.

For analysis code used in this report, and what’s left on the cutting room floor, visit our GitHub repository.
We encourage you to check our work and use it as a basis for your own.

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