That’s according to the 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children and families are faring.
The report ranks Connecticut ninth among the states in overall child well-being. It underscores that lack of high-quality, affordable and accessible child care, in particular, short-changes children and causes parents to frequently miss work or even quit their jobs, while those who can find care are paying dearly for it. These child care challenges cost the American economy billions of dollars a year and stymie women professionally, the report points out.
“The urgent need to address the lack of availability and affordability of high-quality child care, both in Connecticut and nationwide, cannot be overstated,” said Emily Byrne, executive director of Connecticut Voices for Children, Connecticut’s member of the KIDS COUNT network.
Byrne continued: “Gov. Lamont took an important step by establishing the Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Care and the General Assembly should be applauded for creating an Early Childhood Education (trust) Fund this legislative session. Still, we are a long way from treating early childhood education and care as the essential infrastructure that it is.”
The Data Book reports too many parents cannot secure child care that is compatible with work schedules and commutes. The Data Book reports that in 2020—21,15% of Connecticut children under age 6 lived in families in which someone quit, changed, or refused a job because of problems with child care, compared to 13% nationally. And women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences related to caregiving.
Even if parents can find an opening at child care near their home, they often can’t pay for it, according to the report findings. Connecticut’s average cost of center-based child care for a toddler was $18,156, 13% of the median income of a married couple and 49% of the income of a single-mother family.
Byrne pointed out that “Ensuring Connecticut families can afford the right care for their children and providers are properly compensated for their role in delivering the educational building blocks our youngest residents need in order to thrive is paramount to healthy children, family fiscal security and growing our state’s economy.”
While the cost of care burdens families, child care workers are paid worse than 98% of professions. Median national pay for child care workers was $28,520 per year or $13.71 an hour in 2022, less than the wage for retail ($14.26) and customer service ($18.16) workers.
The failings of the child care market also affect the current and future health of the American economy, costing $122 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity and tax revenue, according to one study. All of these challenges put parents under tremendous stress to meet the dual responsibilities of providing for their families and ensuring their children are safe and nurtured.
“A good child care system is essential for kids to thrive and our economy to prosper. But our current approach fails kids, parents, and child care workers by every measure,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Without safe child care they can afford and get to, working parents face impossible choices, affecting not only their families, but their employers as well.”
Transitioning from a faltering child care system to creating a flourishing one will take new thinking and investing at the local, state, and national levels. An executive order issued by President Biden in April is aimed at expanding access, lowering costs, and raising wages.
It could prove to be a helpful framework, but more is needed, the report emphasizes:
· Federal, state, and local governments should invest more in child care. State and local governments should maximize remaining pandemic recovery act dollars to fund needed child care services and capacity.
· There are steps Connecticut can take in particular to improve access and affordability of high-quality care which include implementing policies that move the state toward a system of universal access to affordable Early Care Education, expanding Head Start and Even Start, and establishing a state-level child tax credit, a policy Connecticut Voices for Children has been championing for several years.
· Public and private leaders should work together to improve the infrastructure for home-based child care, beginning by lowering the barriers to entry for potential providers by increasing access to start-up and expansion capital.
· To help young parents, Congress should expand the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which serves student parents.
Each year, the Data Book presents national and state data from 16 indicators in four domains — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors — and ranks the states according to how children are faring overall. Additional findings in the latest report include where Connecticut is doing well, and where improvement is needed.
Where Connecticut is Doing Well
Education. The Foundation ranks Connecticut 3rd out of all 50 states for the category of education in the 2023 Data Book, the same ranking as in the 2022 Data Book. This ranking includes the following ranks for the four component indicators. AECF has ranked Connecticut
• 1st in the nation regarding preschool attendance
• 8th in the nation in terms of 4th-grade reading proficiency
• 11th in the nation in terms of math proficiency.
• 17th in the nation in terms of high school students graduating on time. Connecticut’s ranking decreased while the percentage of high school students not graduating on time has remained the same at 12 percent.
Where Connecticut Needs Improvement
Economic Well-Being: the Casey report ranks Connecticut 15th in economic well-being in the 2023 Data Book, up from the ranking of 20th in the 2022 Data Book, which shows improvement relative to other states but still requires substantial progress.
Although the state saw some gains in terms of fewer families experiencing a high housing cost burden, these gains were not as significant as those seen in other states, and Connecticut’s child poverty and parental employment numbers remain largely stagnant since 2012.
Health: The Foundation ranks Connecticut 12th out of all 50 states for the category of health in the 2023 Data Book, down from 8th in the 2022 Data Book, which shows that Connecticut is falling behind the progress made in other states.
Looking at how Connecticut compares to the health rankings of other states in the Northeast, Massachusetts is ranked 1st, Vermont is 2nd, New Hampshire is 3rd, New Jersey is 5th, Rhode Island is 8th, New York is 9th, and Maine is 10th.
AECF has ranked Connecticut #2 in the nation in terms of children with health insurance. Connecticut’s percentage of children without health insurance fell between 2013 and 2021.
Family and Community Context: Casey ranks Connecticut 19th out of all 50 states for the category of family and community context in the 2023 Data Book, down from 14th in the 2022 Data Book, which shows that Connecticut is falling behind the progress made in other states.
AECF ranks Connecticut #24 in the country for the number of children living in high-poverty areas. The percentage of children living in high-poverty areas increased (got worse) and the ranking fell (got worse).
AECF ranks Connecticut 4th in the country for having a low teen birth rate.