Connecticut Public Radio | By Lesley Cosme Torres
Connecticut ranks ninth in the country for overall child well-being, a drop from the state’s seventh-place ranking last year. That’s according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child advocacy non-profit.
The report highlights the extreme need for affordable early childhood care. It found that the lack of affordable childcare has negatively affected parents by causing them to frequently miss work or quit their jobs.
Women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences due to not having reliable childcare. The average cost for child care center enrollment in Connecticut is $18,000. That’s about 49% of what a single mother earns annually.
Emily Byrne, the executive director of Connecticut Voices for Children, says many children are being left behind due to socioeconomic impacts and the state’s unchanging poverty rate.
“Connecting parents to good paying jobs, affordable housing and the financial offsets for the high-cost of raising children, particularly early childhood care, is critically important to Connecticut being a family-friendly state,” Byrne said.
Byrne believes a state-level child tax credit that would give money back to hard-working families would help parents pay for quality child care.
Many child care workers are also struggling to make a livable wage. The median national pay for child care workers was $28,000 per year or just over $13 an hour in 2022, which is just below Connecticut’s minimum wage.
“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,” Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said in a statement. “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 to a flourishing early childcare system will take investment at local, state, and national levels, Hamilton said. In April, President Biden issued an executive order on early childhood education that aims to expand access, lower costs, and raise worker wages.