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The COVID-19 pandemic has put in stark relief New York City’s long-standing child care crisis. Workforce recruitment and retention challenges have plagued the industry for years, and recent staff shortages, lost wages, and closures have forced underpaid educators to turn to other professions. Today, as families face increasing difficulty finding child care, our economic recovery depends on the availability of accessible, high-quality child care options - as do the futures of our youngest children, whose providers continue to offer high-quality learning experiences with few resources.
This is particularly true for family child care providers who make up one of the most prevalent forms of care in New York City, comprising nearly three-quarters of providers and 37 percent of the city’s licensed child care capacity for children from birth to five.
But with every crisis comes opportunity. During Eric Adams’ mayoral campaign, he asserted, “It is a moral imperative that we provide universal childcare.” The Mayor now has an unprecedented opportunity to invest in our City’s long-term economic stability by making the critical work of family child care providers intrinsic to his Administration’s child care policy.
Many parents seek family child care providers for high-quality early childhood education. Family child care offers the type of care New Yorkers want: its small, nurturing settings, individualized attention, ability to accomodate siblings of different ages, cultural and linguistic responsiveness and high degree of family engagement all make it a top option. It is also rooted in neighborhoods, making it an incredibly accessible option as well. As families return to the workforce, many will choose family child care for its flexible hours that allow overnight and weekend care for frontline workers and parents with non-traditional work hours.
All Our Kin, a national nonprofit organization that provides professional development for family child care educators in New York City and Connecticut, agrees with Mayor Adams that we need to “close a massive gap in care for the youngest New Yorkers at the most critical point of their brain development, and free up parents—especially women of color—to power our economy and excel in their own careers.” This includes family child care providers, small business owners who are primarily women of color, and who educate a disproportionate share of the city’s children residing in Black and brown neighborhoods.
Mayor Adams should seize the moment to become a vanguard of change as he puts his child care plans in action. To build a child care system that works for all New Yorkers, there must be an equal emphasis on increasing access to care, increasing compensation for family child care providers and supporting quality in family child care (FCC), all while incorporating and elevating the voices of family child care educators. To that end, All Our Kin offers the following recommendations that encompass these principles, and are based on the organization’s experience and best practices developed over the past two-plus decades.
1. Clear the backlog of child care subsidy applications. The City of New York has a months-long backlog in processing applications for child care subsidy. As a result, parents are unable to start work. The Adams Administration should grant presumptive eligibility to all families that meet subsidy eligibility requirements in order to clear the backlog. This will enable parents to return to work and prepare children for school.
2. Prioritize provider pay and benefits by announcing the inclusion of FY 2023 funds to increase FCC reimbursement rates; developing a plan to include family child care in the City’s pay parity agreement with center-based pre-K teachers; and exploring options for the City to pay providers’ health insurance and retirement premiums. The city should also offer hazard pay for FCC providers.
3. Appoint a Family Child Care Advisory Committee. The Mayor should appoint a diverse group of FCC providers and parent leaders to advise the Administration on a vision and strategies to increase support for family child care. The city should also distribute health and safety resources in multiple languages, and provide regular, two-way communication with FCC providers to reduce stresses that contribute to their decisions to close.
4. Reinvest in Family Child Care Provider Networks. Family Child Care Networks are a research-based way to support quality, sustainability, and community among FCC educators. New York City’s existing FCC Networks hold the potential to give educators what they need to thrive. Unfortunately, insufficient funding and a complex web of requirements has forced Networks and providers to spend more time on compliance than on the quality activities that we know work. The Administration should reinvest in the existing Network infrastructure and engage FCC educators, parents, and network staff to understand how to best support the city’s 5,900 FCC programs.
5. The city must also ensure all family child care educators have access to robust professional learning opportunities, as well as business training and coaching from
staff who are knowledgeable about family child care business models. This training must be inclusive of all FCCs, not just those in Networks.
In addition to these recommendations, which warrant immediate action, the Adams administration should support greater institutional alignment on family child care quality across the DOE and QUALITYstarsNY (New York's Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for child care programs).
Public will to solve New York City’s child care crisis has never been greater. Though the City has a healthy budget surplus, economists have sounded the alarm that its economic recovery depends on parents’ ability to find child care. Congress has signaled its intention to make long-term investments in child care and early learning with an emphasis on family child care, but New Yorkers can’t wait for federal action. Family child care providers are closing and parents are turning down jobs today. The Adams Administration must act immediately to stabilize and grow family child care to ensure our economy works for everyone.
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