Feb 13, 2018Vermont Biz
Vermont continues to face a critical child care shortage, according to an updated report by Let’s Grow Kids on the supply of and demand for child care in Vermont. The report found that more than half (51%) of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need care (LTNC) don’t have access to any regulated child care programs and 77% don’t have access to high-quality programs. Looking at care for infants only, the shortage is especially severe: 65% of infants likely to need care don’t have access to any regulated child care programs and 84% don’t have access to high-quality programs.
Let's Grow Kids produced the report with the advisement of Building Bright Futures, the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children, Vermont Birth to Five (VB5), the Vermont Child Care Providers Association, and the Vermont Department for Children and Families Child Development Division. The report is available online here: www.letsgrowkids.org/stalled-start.
“This report reaffirms what Vermonters already know. In every county, families are struggling to find and afford high-quality child care and this means we’re not giving all of our kids an equal chance to be prepared for success in school, work and life. This is also a major challenge for Vermont’s businesses—Vermonters can’t work without child care,” said LGK Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire.
While access continues to be a challenge, program quality has steadily improved over the past several years. LGK’s sister organization, VB5, has been working closely with child care providers across the state over the past decade to help them improve program quality. In January, VB5 launched a new program and grant called Make Way for Kids with a goal to create 500 new high-quality, child care spaces in Vermont annually.
“Vermont child care providers have worked extremely hard to enhance the quality of their programs and that work is paying off. But, as this report shows us, we simply don’t have enough child care spaces to meet the need and this is largely because, even though caring for our youngest kids is critically important and rewarding work, it can be a tough business to sustain,” said VB5 Executive Director Janet McLaughlin. “Addressing Vermont’s child care capacity challenge can’t wait and that’s why we’re working to ensure high-quality programs can thrive and more families can access them.”
In the long-term, ensuring Vermont families can afford and access high-quality child care programs will require increased public investments in the early care and learning system, which has been chronically underfunded for several years.
LGK is part of a group through the Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance calling on the state to close the $9.2 million funding gap in Vermont’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) to help families afford quality child care. This is an important foundational first step in tackling child care access and affordability challenges. In a December 2017 poll, 70% of Vermonters supported increasing CCFAP funding to close this gap.
“Our polling shows that this is an issue that resonates across the political spectrum with Democrats, Republicans, Progressives and independents all recognizing the importance of solving this challenge. More and more Vermonters are identifying the need to invest in high-quality, affordable child care to address our state’s most serious social and economic problems, including Vermont’s workforce challenge,” said Freedner-Maguire.
*How the report defines high-quality: In Vermont, regulated child care programs can participate in the state’s voluntary quality recognition and improvement system, called STARS (Step Ahead Recognition System). Within STARS, child care programs can receive a quality recognition level of 1 to 5 stars. This report refers to programs that have achieved 4- and 5-star recognition levels as high-quality because these levels have been identified in legislation, by partner organizations and in the work of Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care as targets for quality. We want to acknowledge that earning stars takes time and there are many quality child care programs in Vermont committed to continuous improvement that have not yet achieved a 4- or 5-star rating.