By Katharine Swindells
BU News Service
New survey results released by Boston’s Mayor Martin Walsh on Thursday revealed many residents believe childcare in Boston is too expensive, and that childcare can cost upwards of 75% of a minimum-wage salary. To combat this problem, the city has opened a partnership fund to provide grants for business owners and encourage more childcare providers, Walsh announced.
Walsh released the results of the ‘Making Childcare Work’ survey at the Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción in the South End as a “roadmap” to addressing childcare challenges in the city. The survey showed that 86% of the nearly 3,000 respondents thought childcare in Boston was not affordable.
“Here in Boston, we want to be the best city in the world for our children to grow, learn and succeed,” Walsh said.
Walsh announced the launch of a new Childcare Entrepreneur Fund, a partnership project between the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement and the Economic Mobility Lab, which will provide grants and business training to current and aspiring family childcare business owners.
The survey, he said, also highlighted the insufficient number of childcare providers in the city, which the Office of Women’s Advancement said has decreased 25% in the past four years. 46% of survey respondents said childcare was difficult to find or too far away.
Both initiatives aim to improve the development of women in the city, who disproportionately take on caring responsibilities. One third of parents who stay at home to care for their children said they want to be working, a group which is 91% women, the survey showed.
According to data from the Office of Women’s Advancement, the median wage of an early childcare professional is $25,000, with 37% of workers relying on public aid.
“In Boston, we have amazing, brilliant people providing vital childcare services to our community,” Walsh said. “The vast majority of childcare workers are women, and these jobs often have no benefits, low salary and less opportunity to move up. This is the result of society undervaluing women’s work for far too long.”
The Entrepreneur Fund has been specifically targeted at immigrant communities, said Tania Del Rio, executive director of the Office of Women’s Advancement. She brought materials printed in multiple languages, as immigrants make up almost half of childcare providers in the city.
Del Rio said after the announcement that she believes these providers will especially benefit from the business training, which will include classes in budgeting, marketing and other operational skills.
“What they tell us is that they’re confident in their childcare skills but not in business skills,” Del Rio said.
The initiatives are part of Walsh’s ongoing work to create equal access to high-quality pre-kindergarten education across Boston within five years, to which he committed $15 million of his FY20 budget in April.
The effectiveness of the two new initiatives will be measured in partnership with UMass Boston, Del Rio said. The hope is that the programs will enable and invite more providers to open and thrive, which will lower costs and improve the quality of childcare in the city.
“Investing in childcare benefits both parents and children,” Walsh said. “Parents have peace-of-mind knowing they can afford to send their child to a safe, nurturing place during the day. And our children will get on a path to a strong future.”