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“This isn’t a field where we just take people with no experience right out of high school.”

executive director of the Connecticut Association for Education of Young Children



WATERBURY — Chelsey Harris, a single mother of three young children, lives with her mother so she can afford to send her 4-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son to child care.

Harris, director of early care and education for Waterbury Bridge to Success, pays more than $1,000 in child-care costs each month. She earns “a little too much” to qualify for Care4Kids, a state program that helps low- to moderate- income families pay for child-care costs, she said.

“Child care is a rent payment,” Harris said. “I cannot afford to pay rent and pay for my kid to go to day care. It’s either one or the other.”

Harris joined more than 100 parents, child-care providers and city representatives at the city Green for a #Morning-WithoutChildcare rally Tuesday. A message they shared: early childhood education is most important and needs to be funded as such, while making it more accessible and affordable for families.

Child Care for Connecticut’s Future, a coalition of organizations, providers, parents and advocates, says $700 million is needed to save the state’s child-care system. If the state doesn’t provide the necessary funding, Connecticut’s system will collapse, the coalition says.

Comprising a bulk of that $700 million is $250 million to increase pay for child-care employees to earn competitive wages, and a $200 million increase to Care4Kids “so working families can stop living paycheck to paycheck,” according to a coalition fact sheet.

The median hourly wage is $13.45 for Connecticut childcare employees.

See CARE , Page 6A

Thayer Clark of Woodbury and her son, Pierce Trella, 11 months, attend the Morning Without Child Care Day of Action gathering on the Waterbury Green on Tuesday. The goal of the group, Child Care for Connecticut’s Future, is ‘to bring attention to the impending collapse of the child care industry.’


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To afford a “high-quality program,” families pay up to $17,000 per year for preschool and $22,000 annually for infant-toddler programs, the fact sheet states.

The coalition held rallies in Waterbury and seven other cities Tuesday to raise awareness about the long-standing issue. Coalition members will hold a legislative rally today at the state Capitol in Hartford and deliver handwritten cards to legislators to make them aware a solution is needed, said Karen Rainville, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Education of Young Children.

“This isn’t a field where we just take people with no experience right out of high school,” Rainville said. “This is a profession that requires advanced degrees to educate young children. You can’t expect to have baccalaureatelevel staff that are making $14 per hour, working three jobs just to make a living.”

As of January, there were 1,385 licensed child-care programs and 1,886 licensed family child-care homes in the state. About 80% of childcare centers have staffing vacancies and 57% have closed classrooms due to staffing, the fact sheet states. Only 20% of providers receive state funding.

IN WATERBURY, 12 classrooms are closed in the school readiness program across the city, preventing 240 children from gaining an education, Rainville noted. That program funds spaces for children ages 3-5 who aren’t yet eligible for kindergarten, according to the state Office of Early Childhood. At least 60% of the children enrolled must be from families at or below 75% of the state median income.

As executive director of Waterbury Bridge to Success, a cradle-to-career initiative, Althea Marshall Brooks works collaboratively with parents, providers, and city and school officials to ensure every Waterbury child has access to child care. She described the city’s South End as a child-care “desert.”

“We want our legislators to hear that,” Brooks said of the call-to-action for the $700 million. “It’s time to invest in early child-care infrastructure because it is critical to the success of all children across the state and country.”

Child-care challenges are felt across the nation. City resident Allison McIntire had her son, who is on the autism spectrum, attend more than a handful of child-care centers in North Carolina and Connecticut, but the facilities didn’t have employees trained to meet her son’s needs. When her son misbehaved, he’d be given a timeout instead of an employee working with him, she said. McIntire and her family moved to Waterbury in early 2020.

“He doesn’t want to go to school because that experience destroyed how he looks at school and education,” she said. “It’s been a very hard fight, and not only that, but he’s behind educationally.”

IN TORRINGTON, Mary Cecchinato, executive director of Torrington Child Care Center, held a similar rally outside her center Tuesday. Grandparents, children, staff and state Rep. Michelle L. Cook, D-Torrington, attended.

Cecchinato has worked at the center for 36 years and oversees 11 employees who teach 43 children ages 3 and 4. She said it’s hard to pay her staff “worthy” wages because she also has to account for heat, electricity, gas, food, computers, toys, insurance and more.

“Teachers who’ve just started are starting out at $13 per hour, and in August, we’ll go up to $14 per hour,” Cecchinato said. “By law, we have to raise the minimum wage, but there’s nothing to compensate for the staff that has been here for 40 years.”

Lisa Fortier of Waterbury holds a sign while listening to speeches Tuesday during the Morning Without Child Care Day of Action gathering on the Waterbury Green.


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