For years, child-care centers have survived by paying workers minimum wage and offering a service that is, for working parents, still just barely affordable. It is this reality that reveals the fact that child care has been in crisis for years, said Cindy Horgan, executive director of the private nonprofit Cape Cod Children’s Place in Eastham.
Now, the crisis is at a breaking point: 163 Mass. child-care centers have closed permanently during the pandemic, according to the Boston Globe.
On Cape Cod, this includes the child-care stalwart Stepping Stones on Route 28 in Cotuit, which has closed, Horgan said.
Cape Cod Children’s Place in Eastham reopened on Aug. 31, but only at half capacity in order to allow for safe distancing. Financially, this has gutted the organization, she said.
“We are staffing at the same level with half the revenue,” Horgan said. “Now we’re losing $8,000 to $10,000 a month or $120,000 a year.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 9, Cape Cod parents, educators, and the public are invited to attend a virtual town hall from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the topic of affordable, accessible, high-quality early education and child care. It is being organized by the Cape & Islands chapter of Common Start, a statewide child-care advocacy campaign. Common Start wants to involve local, state, and federal governments, as well as private businesses, in creating a robust day-care system.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Bill Keating, and other legislators will join in this “town hall” conversation.
“Elizabeth Warren calls child care ‘infrastructure,’ ” said Sandra Faiman-Silva, a member of the Coalition for Social Justice and the convener and co-facilitator of the Common Start chapter here. “We require it to have a productive workforce.”
The Coalition for Social Justice is a 25-year-old South Shore nonprofit that organizes and lobbies on behalf of low-income families in poorer communities such as New Bedford, Fall River, Brockton, and Taunton.
Provincetown in 2018 stepped up to fund free child care and preschool for all infants, toddlers, and three- and four-year-olds of residents and town employees, Faiman-Silva said. Seaman’s Bank partially pays for Cape Cod Children’s Place child care for its employees. Wellfleet voters fund a voucher program to help residents afford preschool.
Still, young families struggle to pay up to $20,000 a year for child care, Faiman-Silva said, while child-care workers earn only $12 to $14 an hour, according to Horgan.
“People cannot afford to do this work,” Horgan said. “I’m embarrassed by the salaries we offer. But we cannot raise tuition to raise salaries.”
Those who are able to further their education go on to teach kindergarten, which pays a living wage.
“The status of workers and the wages are pathetic relative to K through 12 teachers,” said Faiman-Silva. “The pay has to be raised to make it the well-respected profession that it is. You give your cherished children to them, and yet you pay them minimum wage. That’s ridiculous.”
To RSVP for the Cape and Islands Regional Town Hall: http://bit.ly/townhallcape. For more information about the Common Start Coalition, visit commonstartma.org.