Parents already know that it’s tough to find high-quality, affordable child care in Boston.
Now, a new report — State of Early Education and Care in Boston: Supply, Demand, Affordability and Quality — has used data to better define the child care landscape for policymakers.
“During the process of creating a citywide plan for young children to achieve this goal, we discovered that there were many questions that could not be answered and supported with the data available,” the report, which was released by the Boston Opportunity Agenda, explains.
Among the questions:
• How many infants and toddlers are there in each Boston neighborhood?
• How many children in Boston’s neighborhoods have access to child care?
• Is the available child care high quality and affordable?
• Are children screened for developmental delays and connected to resources?
• And are parents satisfied with their early education and care options?
To answer these questions the report compiles, for the first time, data from the Boston Public Schools, Boston Public Health Commission, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, U.S. Census Bureau, City of Boston Census, and the United Way DRIVE Initiative.
Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, and Titus Dos Remedios, Strategies director of research and policy, both served on the Boston Opportunity Agenda’s Birth to Eight Collaborative’s Data Committee.
Compiling all this data has revealed troubling holes.
If, for example, Boston parents wanted to enroll all of the city’s Boston’s 40,000 children ages 0 to 5 in an early education and care program, they would find that there were only slightly more than 26,000 available seats in center-based, family-based and school-based programs.
That’s a gap of 14,000 seats.
The Boston Globe reports that the “shortage is most pronounced in Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park, which lack high-quality slots for nine out of every 10 children.”
“Child care in Boston affects everyone, no matter where you live, no matter your income bracket, no matter what you look like. It is not affordable for anybody, and it’s difficult to access,” Kristin McSwain, executive director of the Boston Opportunity Agenda, tells the Globe.
And a press release about the report adds, “eight neighborhoods had a surplus of seats relative to their 3-5-year-old populations, every neighborhood had a gap for 0-2-year-olds, and if all children attempted to enroll, 74 percent of 0-2 year-olds would not be able to enroll.”
“Looking at ‘quality seats,’ as many as 54 percent of 3-5 year-olds would be unable to enroll in a ‘quality seat,’ and 93 percent of 0-2 year-olds would be shut out of ‘quality seats.’ ”
Behind the numbers are struggling parents, one of whom says, “Both my husband and I work and while we make decent money, we still struggle to afford child care. We don’t have the option of family or one of us staying home. It’s hard to fathom paying over $5K a month (plus we can’t afford that) to have two kids in daycare, so having a second child isn’t even in the cards for us at the moment…”
Addressing these challenges will take a cross-sector approach, the report says. Among its recommendations:
• “Develop an early childhood data ecosystem. Data integration across sectors will facilitate a shared citywide knowledge base to inform practice and policy, as well parents’ decision-making.”
• “Increase the supply of early education and care seats to provide immediate and long-term benefits to children’s development and academic success, support parents to remain in the workforce, and prevent employers from economic losses.”
• “Ensure all licensed center-based and family-based facilities are high quality so all of Boston’s children can access the best environment for their development, particularly providing high quality early education and care to mitigate the effects of adversity for vulnerable children.”
• “Make high quality early education and care affordable for all families across Boston’s neighborhoods. Prioritize affordability for low-income families, including single-parent households and children living in poverty,” and
• “Cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships between care providers and businesses to subsidize care seats for employees’ children, ensuring consistent care options for their employees and diversifying the revenue streams for child-care facilities.”
The next steps are to use this data, gather more, and put all this information to work. As Mayor Marty Walsh says in the report’s foreword:
“Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that we provide world-class, high-quality, accessible, affordable, and equitable early care and education to all of Boston’s youngest residents. I encourage early educators, parents, advocates, and policy makers to use the data presented here as a starting point for conversations, and more importantly, as a roadmap for action.”