First Five Years Fund

In the recent article, “Rising costs are outpacing revenue for CT child care centers,” the Connecticut Mirror team mapped out how rising costs are outpacing revenue for child care centers in Connecticut. This could serve as a mirror for the child care system in every state in the country, all of which are seeing severe staffing shortages, higher costs, long wait lists, and even closures.

Providers cannot charge Connecticut families more due to the already high cost of care – an average of $16,276 a year for just one infant. This isn’t your average, run-of-the mill household expense. The cost of child care has risen 220% in the last few decades — twice as fast as other major expenses for consumers (like housing and groceries).

To remain solvent, child care programs must often resort to offering lower compensation for child care workers and staff in order to cover high fixed costs and avoid compromising safety and quality for children. At the same time, early educators are leaving the workforce for higher wages in other sectors. While child care employment numbers are slowly inching back, it’s one of the only sectors still way below pre-pandemic levels – with employment 60,000 jobs below where it was in February of 2020. This high turnover contributes to forced classroom and provider closures, which is detrimental to children, employers and parents alike.

Connecticut has helped by leading on this at the state level, but states can’t solve the child care crisis on their own. It takes federal investment and partnership to make a difference. Without adequate federal funding, child care prices will keep going up, programs will continue to close, and our families – and the economy – will continue to suffer. It’s not only providers who are feeling the pain. 

Three out of four children under six in Connecticut have all available parents in the workforce, yet most families can’t afford or even find the care they need. We hear about how parents just want a job to provide for their family, and from small businesses who continue to struggle to find and retain workers, particularly those with young children.

It’s why Sen. Richard Blumenthal stood on the floor of the Senate last August and proclaimed that Congress had to act on child care because “it is essential for families because they need it to go back to work, particularly moms who have been out of the workforce. It is essential to our economy because employers–big, small–all need more workers, and they need to train those workers, and the way to find those workers and give them the skills they need to fill those jobs is to enable them to be secure in knowing their children have good child care.”

And it’s why he and House Appropriations Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro worked with her colleagues bipartisan funding for federal child care programs a key part of the end of year funding bill last Congress. These programs are foundational to helping Connecticut providers stay open and serve more kids and families. And Congress has the power to provide that foundation.

Sarah Rittling is Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund.