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CT families call on state for help with costly child care services

Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks with parents and employees of Friends Center for Children, a childcare center catering to preschool age children in New Haven
Eddy Martinez
Connecticut Public
Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks with parents and employees of Friends Center for Children, a childcare center catering to preschool age children in New Haven

Paris Pierce’s youngest son goes to the Friends Center for Children, a child care center catering to preschool-age children in New Haven. Pierce is also a teacher at the center, so she gets aid to send her child to the center, which can cost as much as $22,000 a year.

She even lives at the center’s housing for teachers, the only one of its kind in the nation to have such amenities for its staff. But, her low pay still makes getting by a challenge.

“We meet with a financial coach every month and we set goals. And it's kind of hard setting goals when we don't make nothing,” Pierce said.

Pierce gathered with other employees and parents to speak with Sen. Richard Blumenthal inside the basement of the center. They told him their stories about the center’s importance to their families. But costs are also a significant factor for Blumenthal’s visit.

He showed up a week before planned statewide rallies, now in their third year, calling on the state to fund child care initiatives, a year after the Gov. Ned Lamont first set up a blue ribbon panel, which has since recommended a $2 billion plan to improve access to child care and a bill to increase early child care salaries.

They’re also calling on federal officials like Blumenthal for additional help.

The federal government increased funding to programs like Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant in March. But Blumenthal said it's not enough and that he would try to get additional support for more federal dollars.

“We still have inadequate resources for child care even though we've increased them somewhat,” Blumenthal said. “The increase is only a fraction of what's needed.”

His office stated Connecticut families end up paying around $15,000 a year for child care, per child. Many families also get financial aid to help offset the costs.

Lamont has previously expressed support for increased child care aid, and the recommendation by the panel stated his administration has increased funding over the next few years. The bills advocated by child care providers may be approved this year. But it still may not enough, according to The Friends Center for Children’s Executive Director Allyx Schiavone.

Schiavone said many families end up getting aid to help cover the costs, but it doesn’t cover all of the expenses. Many child care centers also do not receive enough aid to pay employees, who are predominantly women.

“The entire system right now is subsidized on the backs of the women who are working in child care, our whole state economy,” Schiavone said.

Center officials say eligibility requirements to get aid are another issue because many families don’t qualify.

Schiavone’s workplace struggles are markedly different from private workplaces that can afford to give their employees child care. But she hopes the rallies next week convince officials of the need to make equitable child care a reality.

“We're moving that way,” Schiavone said. “We've seen some growth, but really we haven't yet said this is critical and this is a crisis.”

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