The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

Hundreds rally for more investment­s in child care

- By Liz Hardaway Liz Hardaway may be reached at

On a frigid and windy Internatio­nal Women’s Day, many child care providers across the state opened late.

Although they usually watch children whose parents go to work, these educators, along with many families and advocates, rallied in a number of Connecticu­t towns to show what a morning would be like without child care.

Child Care for Connecticu­t’s Future, a statewide coalition of organizati­ons, providers, parents and advocates, hosted a series of “Morning Without Child Care” events to call on legislator­s to invest in Connecticu­t’s youngest residents and the people who take care of them. Dozens of people gathered in Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, Mansfield, New Haven, Groton, Stamford and Waterbury on Wednesday to demand investment­s in the child care system to make it more equitable for families and providers alike.

In a statement issued before the rallies were held, the coalition said the proposed state budget “fell short of providing the necessary investment­s in child care.”

The coalition is asking for legislator­s to invest $700 million in the state budget for child care by 2026. The funds would go toward equitable compensati­on to retain and grow the workforce, specifical­ly to adopt the state Office of Early Childhood’s compensati­on scale for licensed centers and family care providers to make their wages similar to other educators.

The coalition also hopes these funds would provide financial relief to parents — making sure they don’t pay more than 7 percent of their incomes for child care — as well as increase enrollment in all state-subsidized programs and raise reimbursem­ent rates to providers.

“The entire Connecticu­t economy rests on the shoulders of the early care and education system. And the system we operate in is broken,” said Allyx Schiavone, director of the Friends Center for Children in New Haven and co-chair of the Child Care for Connecticu­t’s Future coalition. “Families pay too much. Educators make too little. Programs can’t survive. Businesses can’t thrive. And children are stuck in the middle.”

“We are here today because decision makers are not stepping up,” she said in a statement. “We are here today because we are getting less rather than more.”

In a phone call Wednesday afternoon, OEC Commission­er Beth Bye said she wasn’t able to attend of the rallies but said her office plans to follow up with providers and advocates.

“I think things are really difficult out there for programs and they’re saying they need help,” Bye said. “The governor’s budget provides some help, but they feel it’s not enough.”

“They’re having their voices heard, and we certainly appreciate that,” Bye added.

The coalition also hosted a set of rallies last year to raise awareness, and Bye said she “definitely saw the impact of advocacy efforts,” including “significan­t funds added to the budget.”

This year, it’s ultimately up to the legislatur­e, she said.

On the McLevy Green in Bridgeport on Wednesday, about 40 providers, advocates, parents and children bundled up in thick coats and held signs demanding change. According to the coalition, between 375 and 400 people attended the rally in New Haven and 200 people went to a rally in Stamford, while numbers for the Hartford, Waterbury and Groton rallies were not immediatel­y available. The Danbury and Mansfield rallies took place later on Wednesday evening.

Several providers took to the microphone in Bridgeport to voice concerns about the industry, detailing how parents need child care to go to work yet many can’t afford it. Meanwhile, providers are struggling to make ends meet while providing critical day care services for the young students.

“Child care is essential,” said Katherine Lantigua, owner of KColorful Daycare in Bridgeport and president of a local child care union. “We matter.”

Providers and advocates said the system needs both long-term and immediate wage enhancemen­ts.

“The system has been broken for too long, and we’ve been tolerating it,” Lantigua said. “Enough is enough.”

Norma Stennett, who owns Bridgeport-based home day care Scholastic Renaissanc­e, said child care has always been imperative, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance of the service to the forefront.

During the pandemic, Stennett said she had to think on the spot constantly, making her home into a makeshift triage area to keep her students safe, helping them adjust to distance learning and investing in cleaning supplies to make sure no one got sick. Meanwhile, many of her parents were able to continue to go to work.

To find a child care provider, or to find which services best fit the needs of your family, call 211 or go to https://search.211childca­

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