‘It really is a crisis.’ Child care workers rally for more state funding
At rallies across the state Wednesday—including in Stamford, Bridgeport and Stratford—the message to lawmakers was the same: fund child care.
“We really need the state to invest in early childhood. Right now, things are failing,” said Catherine Vanicky, director of Honeybear Learning Center in Stratford.
“The child care system is completely broken,” added Katherine Lantigua, owner of KColorful Daycares in Bridgeport.
“We have been systemically underfunded really forever. The system now is very fragile, and it is on the verge of collapsing,” said Marc Jaffe, CEO of Children's Learning Centers of Fairfield County in Stamford.
The rallies were dubbed a “Morning Without Childcare” and brought together providers, educators, parents and coalition groups to push for change.
“Childcare educators do not make enough to support their families and as a result, are leaving the field in droves because they can make more money elsewhere,” explained Jill Keating Herbst, vice president of Connecticut programs for All Our Kin, a nonprofit that trains, supports and sustains child care educators.
“We are essential workers. We deserve to get at least minimum wage per child,” said Lantigua. “We open our doors at 4 a.m., 5 a.m., midnight, weekends, and we don't get any differentials. We don't have any health insurance. We don't have any retirement funds.”
Keating Herbst said the state is 50,000 child care slots short over the past three years. That means many families cannot find care. And those that can often don’t have the money for it, even with state subsidies.
“Parents are also losing out in the workforce because they can’t cover child care expenses so they can't go to work and make a living to take care of their families,” said Enajasha Samuel, owner of Nay’s Little Rascals Pre-School.
Keating Herbst called for a major state investment--$700 million to prevent a system collapse.
“If we fail, the ramifications for the state of Connecticut, for our economy are really quite devastating,” Jaffe told News 12. “Parents have to leave the workforce to care for their children and that will bring on a recession.”
“Legislators have to know that not only do they need to fund child care, but they need to fund it substantially because underfunding child care is like putting a Band-Aid on a heart surgery,” said Norma Stennett, owner of Scholastic Renaissance LLC, a family child care home in Bridgeport.
“I ask the state of Connecticut to listen to what's happening here because it really is a crisis,” Keating-Herbst stressed. “Child care is critical for families for children to grow. Early childhood educators are so important for those early years.”
Stennett agreed, adding that it sets kids up for their future.
Jaffe said, “The return on investment in early childhood education is better than any other segment of the education system.”