The COVID-19 pandemic magnified the economic hardships facing child-care providers and created additional challenges for working families, reinforcing the urgency for increasing the affordability and availability of quality child care. The recent announcement of increased funding for Boston’s universal pre-K program is welcome news for those of us who continue to advocate for additional support for this under-resourced sector (“Boston to spend $20 million to expand its pre-K program,” Metro, July 7).
In 2017, United Way partnered with the City of Boston and the Barr Foundation to increase the number of high-quality early-child-care seats, analyzing the existing supply and demand and assessing the costs and quality of programs throughout the city. This led to the adoption of the current mixed-delivery pre-K model, wherein children in community-based settings learn the same high-quality curriculum taught in BPS classrooms.
Mayor Michelle Wu is bringing the family child-care sector into the fold. Family child-care entrepreneurs, primarily Black and Latina women, are an integral part of the early child-care system. Though they often share the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the children in their care, they do not receive the business training that other entrepreneurs do.
Ongoing training of educators and family child-care providers will be key to the success of the mayor’s program. Since 2019, United Way has trained more than 200 universal pre-K educators through our DRIVE developmental screening program. Family child-care providers also have benefited from United Way’s Shared Services group training, individualized coaching, and free curriculum resources.
We’re working with Boston’s Office of Early Childhood to provide these services to more family child-care providers, which would increase the sustainability of the early-childhood sector, strengthen the economy in the process and, most important, ensure families across every neighborhood are provided high-quality early learning opportunities for their children.
President and CEO
United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley