WNYC: More Early Childcare Is Needed, Not Just Pre-K

by Beth Fertig

The city may have expanded pre-kindergarten services, but an advocacy group claims it’s still far behind in providing low-cost childcare for infants and toddlers.

Although more than 157,000 children up to the age of three are eligible for subsidized childcare, the Campaign for Children says just 14 percent of them receive it.

“There are over 137,000 infants and toddlers who are income-eligible who are not being served,” said Stephanie Gendell, a member of the campaign and associate executive director for policy and government relations at the Citizens Committee for Children.

Her analysis found Queens and Staten Island had the biggest gaps between childcare capacity and potential need, serving between 11.5 and 6.1 percent of eligible infants and toddlers. The Bronx served the highest percentage (23 percent) of eligible infants.

Gendell acknowledged that the city would never get to 100 percent, and that many families prefer relying on stay-at-home parents or relatives. But she said providing more seats in childcare centers, and vouchers for family-based daycare, would enable more low-income parents to work. The Campaign for Children has not set a target, however, or come up with a cost.

For purposes of this analysis, Gendell used families earning under 200 percent of poverty to define eligibility — which is what the city uses to determine who qualifies for subsidized childcare. The programs have sliding-scale fees based on income levels.

The Campaign for Children is the same group that fought cuts to childcare and after-school programs during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, and then pushed to expand them in the 2013 mayoral election.

But the Administration for Children’s Services, which runs the childcare programs, stood by its record.

“Providing affordable, quality early education is a priority for this administration, as there is nothing more important than educating our youngest children,” said spokesman Christopher McKniff.

He said the agency added 1,500 seats for the fiscal year that began in July, which can serve infants or toddlers.

The Administration for Children’s Services also cannot use income, alone, as a qualifier for subsidized childcare. The agency said state and federal funding streams require parents to provide documentation of employment and training.


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