Searching for child care? State panel recommends more discounts, less red tape

Struggling to find child care? You're not alone.
On Wednesday, an expert panel proposed a series of solutions to Connecticut's child care crisis. It could save parents thousands of dollars.
If parents can even find a day care spot, it's simply too expensive for many of them.
"Both me and my husband have seriously considered leaving the workforce solely to eliminate our child care costs," said Symone McGuire, a mother of three from Hamden. "And I know many other families have had to have the same consideration."
McGuire joined Gov. Ned Lamont's Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Care in New Haven, to unveil a series of proposals addressing Connecticut's severe child care shortage.
The panel's draft report says the state needs a lot more child care workers. To recruit them, it recommends higher pay, easier licensing, offering more scholarships and more health insurance and retirement options.
Another recommendation? Making it easier to let substitutes fill in for child care workers.
"We're not just doing what is simplest; we're doing what has the best return on investment," said Connecticut Office of Early Childhood commissioner Beth Bye.
To open up more day care slots, the panel is suggesting bigger class sizes and programs that share or consolidate services.
"I care about the taxpayers, and I always want to give taxpayers confidence that they're getting maximum bang for the buck," Lamont told the group.
The group is also recommending a single funding stream for providers and extra state bonding to convert unused buildings into child care centers.
In March, child care workers protested across the state, calling the system "completely broken."
Even if more child care slots open up, many parents can't afford it.
To help, the panel wants to make most households eligible for discounted child care under the state's Care 4 Kids program. A family of four could save $22,000, according to OEC.
"When this came out, I was like, 'Holy smokes, this is a game-changer for families,'" said Bye.
The new state budget also includes tax breaks for businesses to provide on-site child care, but Lamont said none have applied yet. Some panel members said access to child care facilities remains a major problem for low-income parents.
"Families are still having spots that are on the completely other side of town, and they cannot get their children there," said Althea Marshall-Brooks, executive director of Waterbury Bridge to Success.