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Boston’s Michelle Wu Announces Office of Early Childhood

After the 2021 Childcare Census Survey found that 58 percent of respondents were not able to access center-based, family-based or school-based child-care programs. The mayor’s new office will be a one-stop shop for child-care services.

(TNS) — On Wednesday morning, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced that the city will create an Office of Early Childhood after the 2021 Childcare Census Survey identified that 58 percent of respondents are not able to access center-based, family-based, or school-based child care programs.

The new office will work to expand early education and childcare programs, invest in Boston’s early education and care workforce and serve as a one-stop-shop for people looking for information on early education and childcare programming, according to the city.

Wu is looking to hire a leader as soon as possible, with the timeline of the office’s creation contingent on it.

Wu said the dream is to create a system that parents in Boston can easily find high-quality, affordable child care, no matter where they live. This includes creating a one-stop-shop enrollment system as well as a legislative push to put a cap on childcare costs on families depending on income.

State Rep. Adrian Madaro said at a press conference on Wednesday he is one of the parents currently on a waitlist for childcare in the city. He is also one of the many parents who rely on childcare from his family members. State Sen. Lydia Edwards also spoke at the conference, saying she hopes to have children but said financial barriers are a conflict.

The target cost of childcare is 10 percent of income, Wu said, though for citizens in Boston, this is currently much higher.

The city reported that the average cost of center-based care for 0-to 2-year-olds is $2,237 per month in Boston, compared to $1,743 in the state of Massachusetts as a whole and $1,806 per month for 3-to 5-year-olds compared to $1,258 in the state. In other words, care exceeds 10 percent of their family’s income for 41 percent of children.

With partnership at the state level, the city hopes to cap costs for families, phasing in costs around 7 percent of annual income for families. Wu also said she supports universal pre-k for families in the city, which Boston Public Schools is working to expand.

“Every bit of investment in our children and families to close gaps in early education and care is an investment in our collective future,” the mayor said. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how a lack of affordable and accessible childcare puts a strain on working families and entire communities. Together with our community partners, this Office will be key to preparing children for a lifetime of opportunity and bolstering the great work of our childcare providers.”

According to the city, some of the main tasks of the Office of Early Childhood include:

  • Accelerating the creation of a universal pre-K system that stretches across Boston Public Schools (BPS), community-based organizations, and family-based childcare programs, and expanding high-quality, affordable options for infants and toddlers.
  • Creating a one-stop shop for enrollment and access to early education and childcare programs by building an accessible, multilingual platform so that options are clear, streamlined, and accessible to all families.
  • Investing in the early education and childcare workforce by building sustainable career pathways that recognize early educators as professionals who are essential to young children’s wellbeing.
  • Coordinating outreach and information for city and community programming that impacts the lives of young children and their families.

The leader of the Office of Early Childhood will run these projects in partnership with Boston Public Schools, the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Centers for Youth and Families, as well as any other city departments and community organizations that work with Boston’s children and families.

“We are excited to deepen the City’s investment in high-quality, accessible childcare solutions for early childhood professionals, families, and their little ones,” Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement Alexandra Valdez said. “The Office of Early Childhood will continue the work of looking at closing child care gaps with community voices at the center. This will not only create opportunities to further support a child’s care needs and early development, but also empower a profession that is largely represented by women, specifically women of color, and our immigrant community.”

Some of the other highlights from Boston’s Childcare Census Survey, according to the city, include:

  • For children of all ages in the survey sample, respondents are utilizing a parent or guardian care arrangement more than they would prefer.
  • 81 percent of the respondents utilizing a parent or guardian care arrangement for their children are women, which is interfering with their career desires.
  • 58 percent of respondents would prefer formal care arrangements, whether a center-based, family-based, or school-based program, but are not able to access these.

The survey is ongoing and currently seeking more public input. Those interested in taking the survey, which is offered in seven languages, can do so online. A physical copy was also mailed to Boston residents with the city census.

The YMCA was identified as the second-largest childcare provider in Boston, behind BPS. The organization will be working closely with the office to create more accessible and equitable care.

“We are elated with Mayor Wu’s decision to create a new office focused on early childhood,” President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston James Morton said. “The Y has been working with many stakeholders and community partners to elevate and coordinate early childhood opportunities in the City of Boston. Our East Boston YMCA Early Education Center provides much-needed support and wrap-around services to our families, and we are thrilled to host Mayor Wu as she makes this important announcement.”

Wu also said that people can reach out to the office and access childcare programs regardless of citizenship status.

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