Connecticut is in a child care crisis but we have the opportunity as a state to expand a state program that not only uplifts parents and children but the child care providers, who are predominantly women of color, as well.
Care 4 Kids is a partnership between the State of Connecticut, the families in the program, and the providers who take care of the children and the state’s subsidy is 80-85% funded by federal allocations of Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG).
This program helps low-to-moderate income families pay for child care costs while also providing job opportunities to providers who might otherwise not be able to participate in the workforce because of their own child care needs.
I am one of those providers.
When I had my second child, I was working long hours at Optimus Healthcare East Main Pediatrics as an medical assistant and my husband worked night shifts as an Uber driver. We were working around the clock and my husband was nearly falling asleep at the wheel just trying to make ends meet. We knew that this couldn’t continue, it was too dangerous and we wouldn’t be able to make it from paycheck to paycheck and something had to change.
That’s when I learned about the Care 4 Kids program and opened up my house to families in need of reliable and affordable child care. My work allows parents to go to work in the morning without worrying about the safety and enrichment of their children.
My first children arrive at my house every morning at 5 a.m. and my last child doesn’t leave until after 6 p.m. Then I have to go through and sanitize the classrooms, prepare meals for the children’s lunch for the next day, and somehow find time to spend with my own children.
Every day is long and exhausting, but while many people recognize that child care providers are critical to families and the economy, we are not compensated as such and I receive $0 towards me and my family’s healthcare. I am forced to make difficult decisions and put off important health procedures.
We learned throughout the pandemic how important child care is to ensuring that our state’s economy is able to continue to move forward. When providers are sick and unable to afford medical care, then they are forced to close their doors. This means dozens of families suddenly without childcare.
Even Gov. Ned Lamont has highlighted the critical importance that childcare has on our economy, “[Providers] are an essential part of our economy and help make Connecticut the most family-friendly state in the country. We need to support this important industry that is vital to families, the workplace, and society.”
The Care 4 Kids program needs to be drastically expanded to account for the immense childcare need across Connecticut and providers deserve a much-needed raise and healthcare benefits to help bridge the financial gap many providers are struggling with. The importance that Governor Lamont places on childcare should be reflected in his budget address next week.
Connecticut has an opportunity to lift up families and child care providers through a program predominantly paid for through federal funds. The time is not to capitalize on that opportunity and address the child care crisis.
Katherine Lantigua is a Care4Kids Provider and Member of CSEA SEIU Local 2001 / Bridgeport