Research shows that investment in early childhood pays off over a lifetime: children who attend high-quality perform better programs on tests, stay in school longer, experience lower rates of depression, have better physical health, and earn more in adulthood. Increasing access to high-quality childcare benefits children, their parents, and the economy. In fact, Nobel-prize-winning economist James Heckman found that every dollar invested pays off more than nine times over in benefits to society. 

In spite of these benefits, a new report from the U.S. Department of the Treasury finds the early childhood sector in dire need of support—private funding cannot provide enough slots to meet families’ needs, creates childcare deserts and undervalues childcare workers. 

In a system where even for-profit childcare providers average profits under 1%, many centers cannot even afford to maintain their facilities, leaving many of the physical structures that shelter our nation’s children in poor repair.  

CentroNía’s President & CEO, has long advocated for the childcare sector. “The last few months of this pandemic have been about how do we keep our doors open, our children safe, and our staff strong?” She asked during a visit to CentroNía by Vice President Kamala Harris in June of this year. “What is the childcare landscape going to look like as we come out of the fog of this pandemic? I remain optimistic that our leaders, both local and federal, have in their hearts the best interests of our youngest and most vulnerable children. Our families are counting on this and our families will be stronger for it.” 

What does this mean for families? Many parents who cannot work full-time because of childcare lose income and access to other benefits important to their family’s wellbeing, such as healthcare insurance and retirement programs. Nationwide, publicly funded childcare subsidies reached just 14% of eligible children, well before the pandemic forced centers to start closing their doors. Increasing access to high-quality programs has the potential to halve the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income households. Unfortunately, even for those, the subsidy reaches, the level of support is too low to cover costs. 

There are more children living in poverty than ever before, and we are chronically underinvesting in their future. 

Childcare providers like CentroNía don’t just get families back to work- we represent a crucial part of the American economy: one in every 110 U.S. workers – and one in every 55 working women – makes a living in early childhood education and care. However, the teachers and caregivers that make up the large early childhood workforce, many of who are women of color, struggle with low pay and burnout. In DC, 35% of childcare workers are below the poverty line. Low pay leads up to 26-40% of them to leave their job each year. This high turnover for caregivers and for the young children they leave behind, as consistency and routines are integral for their wellbeing. 

In spite of the pressures on child care providers, particularly nonprofit centers like CentroNía’s, providers are ready to meet the need. “We have been and will continue to serve as an anchor for the families we serve and for the communities in which we are located,” Myrna assured the audience in July. To join us in our efforts, check out how you can support CentroNía’s early childhood and family support services today.