The Care 4 Kids child care subsidy has played a key role in providing quality child care to low-income working families in Connecticut, enrolling an average of about 21,000 children per month in 2016. Last summer, however, increased program costs driven by federally mandated quality improvements resulted in a $33 million budget shortfall. To address that budget gap, the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) closed enrollment for the program, leading to a current waitlist of about 3,000 families. The waitlist is projected to increase to 5,000 families by July 2017.
Our new report brings together data analysis, provider perspectives, parent stories, and policy solutions to assess the role that Care 4 Kids plays in supporting families across the state and the effect of these budget cuts on the tens of thousands of families the program serves. Stories gathered by Connecticut Parent Power and the Early Childhood Alliance highlight the real experiences of families and child care providers, while data analysis highlights the breadth of the problem.
We find that 30% of children age under five in the state live in low-income families that qualify for Care 4 Kids – but instead of receiving subsidies, these children and their families are placed on a waitlist with no definitive end date. Moreover, in 49% of Connecticut towns, Care 4 Kids is the only form of state support for child care. Under the Governor’s proposed budget, the subsidy program may not reopen until 2019, leaving thousands of parents with untenable choices. The legislature must adopt a budget that fully funds Care 4 Kids this year –our report presents policy solutions to make that happen.
We would like to thank the Connecticut Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, a project of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy for supporting this research.