The Mayor also announced findings from the 2021 Childcare Census Survey report
BOSTON – Wednesday, February 23, 2022 – Mayor Michelle Wu today announced the creation of the Office of Early Childhood to advance the administration’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all children under five. The new Office will expand access to early education and childcare programs, invest in Boston’s early education and care workforce, and serve as a central point-of-entry for residents looking for information on early education and childcare programming and wraparound services for young children and their families.
The Office will address needs highlighted in Boston’s 2021 Childcare Census Survey report, which the Mayor also released today. The Mayor made the Office of Early Childhood announcement at the East Boston YMCA, a key partner in programming for Boston’s children and a Boston UPK site.
“Every bit of investment in our children and families to close gaps in early education and care is an investment in our collective future,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “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.”
The Office will advance the Mayor’s work to prioritize the City’s youngest residents and their families by:
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 City will be hiring a leader of the new Office of Early Childhood to advance this work in partnership with the Boston Public Schools, the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Centers for Youth and Families, other City departments, and community organizations that serve 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,” said Alexandra Valdez, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement. “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.”
Before the establishment of the Office of Early Education, the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement (MOWA) led the City’s childcare initiatives. Some of the department’s work includes the Childcare Entrepreneur Fund, a grant program for family childcare providers to gain business skills and receive flexible funding. Through the Fund, the City has supported over 200 providers with multilingual interpretation and instruction to expand the program’s reach into Boston’s most diverse communities. Other projects include the Childcare Contribution Fund, the City’s annual Childcare Survey and studies on care issues such as the change in caregiving needs after the onset of COVID-19. The office is currently rolling out opportunities to support early education professionals and childcare facilities with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Boston Public Schools has led the way in building out a mixed-delivery system for universal pre-K (UPK) that integrates both BPS classrooms and community-based organizations. In its third year, the UPK program currently serves 664 pre-K students through 21 community-based organizations across 32 program sites; 2,556 non-special education K1 seats for 4-year-olds, and 880 special education seats for 3- and 4-year-olds in K0/K1.
In 2021, UPK expanded to include a pilot program to serve 3-year-olds in addition to 4-year-olds in 2021-22. For the upcoming school year in 2022-23, Boston UPK plans to expand to serve up to 930 children at community provider settings, including 600 4-year-olds and 330 3-year-olds. The City of Boston and Boston Public Schools recently released an Invitation for Bids (IFB) to identify additional community-based organizations seeking to join the UPK program. The IFB deadline is April 4, and more details can be found on the BPS Universal Pre-K website.
By investing in and growing the early educator workforce, supporting early education and childcare businesses, and streamlining information and access for families, the Office of Early Childhood will support UPK’s continued expansion by increasing the number of seats available to infants and toddlers.
“I can think of nothing more important than ensuring every child has a great start to an excellent education and that begins with access to high quality early learning opportunities,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. “I am excited to see Mayor Wu focus on a mixed delivery system that builds on the strong foundation and close partnership with BPS.”
“I am grateful to Mayor Wu and her team and all who have worked so hard to advance this work on behalf of our children and their families,” said Jeri Robison, Chair of the Boston School Committee. “As someone who has dedicated my entire career to ensuring enhanced access to all-inclusive early education and care, I am heartened today to see this important next step in our City’s progress. We are sending a message to our families today that Boston is united in our work to help our youngest learners get off to the right start through new support to them and their families.”
“We are elated with Mayor Wu’s decision to create a new office focused on early childhood,” said James Morton, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston. “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.”
“The healthy development of young children and families starts with connecting those in underserved communities of our City to affordable and accessible childhood resources,” said Cherie Craft, Founder and CEO of Smart from the Start. “Smart from the Start is excited to work with the Mayor and this new Office of Early Childhood to meet families from all backgrounds where they are to get quality care and programming.”
Additionally on Wednesday, Mayor Wu released the 2021 Childcare Census Survey Report, conducted by the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement. Since 2019, the yearly childcare survey directly asks parents and guardians about their early education and care needs to better understand how families access and experience care for their children, ages five and under.
This year’s City of Boston Childcare Census Survey asked families about their experiences and challenges with childcare during the pandemic, and found that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing gaps in care in the City. Key findings include:
For children of all ages in the survey sample, respondents are utilizing a parent/guardian care arrangement more than they would prefer.
81 percent of the respondents utilizing a parent/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 average cost of center-based care is greater than the Massachusetts state average, which is already the second highest in the nation behind only Washington, D.C., for 41 percent of children in childcare arrangements, the cost exceeds 10 percent of their family’s income.
The City’s 2022 Childcare Census Survey is currently ongoing and seeking the public’s input. Families with at least one child between the ages of zero and five are encouraged to complete the online survey, available in seven languages, here. Alternatively, families can fill out the physical survey, which was recently mailed to City of Boston residents along with the Annual City Census. More information on the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement and its annual Childcare Census Survey can be found here.