At the close of Connecticut’s legislative session this month, both houses voted to approve a new family child care contract as part of this year’s budget implementer bill. The contract takes several important steps toward recognizing the importance of family child care providers, integrating family child care providers into our state’s early childhood system, and supporting these essential caregivers in their work of caring for young children.
The contract was negotiated over the past year by the State of Connecticut and the CSEA/SEIU Local 2001, the union representing our state’s family child care and family, friend, and neighbor providers. The agreement was announced by Governor Malloy on January 16, 2014 and approved by the legislature on May 7, 2014.
One important provision of the contract is long-overdue rate increases for licensed and license-exempt providers who accept reimbursement through the state’s child care subsidy program, Care 4 Kids. Over the contract’s four year duration, Care 4 Kids reimbursement rates for licensed providers will increase by twelve percent.
Family child care providers who receive reimbursement through Care 4 Kids currently receive payment as a percent of 2001 market rates. This means that inflation has been diminishing the value of provider’s pay for a dozen years. For example: a licensed family child care provider caring for one pre-school age child full-time in Connecticut’s South Central region has been reimbursed at a rate of $4 an hour (based on calculating full-time as 40 hours per week) since 2002. If reimbursement had kept pace with inflation instead of remaining fixed, this child care provider would be paid $5.27 per hour in today’s dollars—meaning that providers caring for our state’s most vulnerable children have seen their pay dwindle by nearly a quarter since 2002 because of stagnant reimbursement rates.
Inadequate reimbursement rates harm families, providers, and–most importantly–children. Low pay levels discourage many providers from caring for the low-income children who receive child care subsidies, reducing the child care choices available to working parents. Providers who do accept reimbursement often face financial hardship as a result of their low compensation. And when providers aren’t paid properly, children suffer because it is more difficult for inadequately paid caregivers to create sustainable, high quality programs that meet children’s needs.
Every child, no matter how much money their parents make, deserves access to high-quality early education. Although All Our Kin believes that there is still room for growth in reimbursement rates, the rate increases included in the contract represent a significant step toward pay levels that ensure parent choice, reward providers adequately for their essential work, and support program quality.
In addition to the movement on rates, the contract takes several other steps. It creates differential rate increases for licensed caregivers of infants and toddlers, a crucial stride toward increasing the supply of care available for Connecticut’s youngest children. It also authorizes new investments in professional development opportunities. The Office of Early Childhood will offer a four-hour mandatory orientation program that will cover the licensure process, quality enhancement options, and other training topics. Currently unlicensed family, friend and neighbor caregivers will receive financial incentives to become licensed. Additionally, $750,000 will be allocated to professional development opportunities over the life of the contract, and other funds will be available for capital expenditures to improve quality and to remain licensed.
This contract represents an acknowledgement by the State of Connecticut of the need to invest in the family child care providers who provide crucial care and support to children, families, and communities across our state. We hope you join us in acknowledging the negotiators of this contract and applauding state leaders, including the Governor’s Office and the new Office of Early Childhood, for taking this step toward fully including home-based providers in our state’s early childhood system.