Compensation and Services: Child Care in New York Deserves More of Both

Written by Mckenzie Pope, Policy and Advocacy Associate
Early Care & Learning Council

Being a parent, child care provider, and child care advocate has given me a unique perspective on the problem that is child care. As a parent, navigating the long wait lists was horrendous. The easy solution was to begin working in a center to both launch my child to the top of the waitlist and secure a job within days after college graduation. It wasn’t at my first center that I learned about programs outside of the typical early intervention statewide program, like Infant Toddler Mental Health Consultation (ITMHC), nor was it at the second. It wasn’t until I started a policy and advocacy position at Early Care & Learning Council (ECLC) that I learned of this magical program that has the potential to provide an incredible amount of support to child care providers who nurture and educate our children.

One of the many problems surrounding child care is the lack of pay: providers make 96% less than the rest of New Yorkers. If we’re not going to fully fund universal child care this year, then a permanent wage fund to supplement the salaries of this historically underpaid workforce must be established. As federal pandemic funds lapse, the need for the state to invest in the child care workforce is greater than ever. Without a permanent wage fund, programs are unable to recruit and retain workers, leading to instability for child care providers and the families they serve. Providers join the child care field for their love of children, but often can’t pay their bills with the wages they earn. They are stressed. The workforce is at their breaking point.

We must equip providers with additional support to manage their classrooms and allow children in their care to thrive. This is where the magic that is ITMHC comes into play. ECLC and the Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) network employ licensed mental health professionals that provide consultation as a resource to support adults in making changes to benefit the classroom or program as a whole.  When children are experiencing challenging behaviors or need extra social emotional support, the adults caring for them are better equipped to meet those challenges. Consultation is also focused on decreasing the prevalence of suspension and expulsion of BIPOC children that happens at disproportionately high rates, as early as six months old. But with currently only 42 consultants statewide, too many providers are unable to access this support. 

The Assembly’s One-House budget, which includes an additional $2.8 million, would allow for a 46% increase in classrooms receiving ITMHC services, reaching 1,400+ more children. The ITMHC program creates monumental gains among infants and toddlers by delivering valuable resources to providers and their programs. We call on the Senate and Governor to also support this funding in the final budget negotiations. This is a crucial step on the roadmap to giving all of New York’s children and families greater access to quality, equitable child care. We must do this while also supporting one of the most undervalued yet critical workforces and establish a permanent compensation fund that lifts the wages of those individuals raising the future of New York.

Join us.

Vicki Robert