Immigrant families suffer in CT’s child care crisis. A report says universal funding could fix that

Back • Publication Date: January 9, 2024 • Education & Employment

Teachers, Childcare workers, families and Stamford residents gather to rally for early educators at the Children's Learning Centers of Fairfield County in Stamford, CT. March 8, 2023.
Tony Spinelli
Connecticut Public
FILE: Teachers, Childcare workers, families and Stamford residents gather to rally for early educators at the Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County in Stamford, CT. March 8, 2023. Connecticut’s high childcare costs rank third highest nationally

Patricia Somorcurcio, originally from Peru, has resided in Hartford for over a decade. She has a 4-year-old daughter diagnosed with stage one autism, who attends a special needs speech and behavior therapy program.

Somorcurcio expressed the

Somorcurcio expressed the challenge of finding a program that accepts Husky, as many providers are reluctant to work with state insurance.

“There are not many places that accept state insurance. Some don’t even accept private insurance and expect families to pay out of pocket for each session,” Somorcurcio said. “I pay approximately $500 a month and I believe these programs should be free for children.”

Somorcurcio said she has noticed a high demand among special needs families seeking affordable programs and resources for their children.

“I think there should be complete programs focused on behavior and speech therapy that is not divided,” Somorcurcio said. “There should be more state programs because they are not enough due to the great demand.”

Late last year, Gov. Ned Lamont’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Care unveiled a five-year strategic plan prioritizing equitable access to early care and education, focusing on equity, quality, affordability, provider stability and community input.

Lauren Ruth, researcher at the nonprofit CT Voices for Children, emphasizes that their research could be used to strengthen the plan’s recommendations to lessen the burden on working and immigrant families, as well as low-paid caregivers.

“Helping early childhood educators develop the knowledge that they need to support children who have developing special needs is really important. Para-educators also deserve a dignified wage that acknowledges the time that they spend during the day doing the work they do,” Ruth said.

CT Voices for Children’s latest report highlights the critical need for a robust early care and education (ECE) system, citing access, affordability, and quality challenges. The report found that Connecticut continues to have persistent issues, particularly impacting women of color, affecting parents’ productivity and children’s education.

Connecticut’s high child care costs rank third highest nationally, posing a barrier. Addressing gaps for 45,730 Connecticut children is crucial, the nonprofit said, costing the state between $1.3 and $1.9 billion annually, disproportionately affecting marginalized families and hindering parental career advancement.

Advocates say if the state follows their recommendations, government spending, projected at $716 million by 2023, is considered wise. CT Voices for Children estimated it would prevent losses of $860 per working parent.

The study also highlights staff shortages, supply issues, and financial strains that impact child care providers, exacerbated by the end of COVID-era federal aid. The Care 4 Kids family co-pay adds to the challenges faced by child care providers, prompting them to operate at a loss. These facilities rely on subsidies that may not cover actual costs, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive, sustainable solution.

CT Voices suggests that their Universal Funding (UF) of child care proposal be adopted by early 2025, in order to meet aims to improve workforce conditions, align licensure requirements and support professional development.

Initiatives include stipends, subsidies, and grants to address workforce needs and enhance childcare access. Strategies focus on benefits cliffs, subsidy regulations alignment, infant and toddler care expansion, and organizational support. The plan underscores accountability, parental engagement and flexible fiscal models for phased investments and business engagement.

“It’s going to be our elected officials who ultimately decide and agree that, as essential infrastructure, early care, and education should be funded as such,” Emily Byrne, executive director of CT Voices, said. “Our ultimate aim is for universal access to affordable high-quality early care and education.”

Authors: Maricarmen Cajahuaringa •  Source: CT Public • View