Connecticut’s Care 4 Kids Program Leaves Family Child Care Providers Struggling Providers Make Their Case for Collective Bargaining Rights At State Capitol
This Tuesday, family child care providers, who care for children in home based daycare settings, converged on the state capitol in Hartford to ask the Labor & Public Employees committee to support a bill granting them collective bargaining rights. Family child care providers accepting Care 4 Kids, Connecticut’s low income child care assistance program, voted overwhelmingly, 1603 to 88, in an election conducted by the American Arbitration Association to join together in CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 back in December, but under current labor laws they lack the right to negotiate for a contract. Senate Bill 352 will allow family child care providers to negotiate for a contract with the state over wages and working conditions, while not make them state employees.
After testifying in support of the Bill 352, New Haven based provider Queen Freelove spoke of the challenges facing providers. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and it’s getting harder every year to provide quality childcare. The work I do allows other families to go to work, but because the families who qualify for the Care 4 Kids program are struggling, many can’t afford to pay their child care providers on top of the Care 4 Kids reimbursements, which have not seen a rate increase since 2002. This creates a very difficult situation for us.”
“To give you an idea of how low the Care 4 Kids rates are; a provider caring full time for an infant would make about $4.54 an hour in Fairfield and only about $3.42 an hour in Eastern Connecticut. Collective Bargaining rights would give these providers a voice in the process that affects their businesses and an avenue to address the problems they struggle with daily.” said Cathy Sarri, an expert on state child care programs.
Outdated reimbursement rates are not the only issues facing Family child care providers; Late payments, lost paper work and long waits for a child’s approval are frequently cited problems. And because they are considered independent businesses, family child care providers are on their own to find affordable health insurance, and many end up on the state HUSKY or Charter Oak health plans. Thousands of providers have left the field in the past decade as a result.
Granting family child care providers the right to collectively bargain has created win/win situations in other states for both providers and local governments. In Washington and Illinois, child care providers were able to improve their wages through their contract, while streamlining the system and saving the state money. And as the field became more desirable, more providers started accepting state subsidized children, creating greater access for parents.
The service delivered by home based family child care providers is essential for working families around the state who work irregular hours when most childcare centers are closed. The providers often open their doors at 6am and don’t close until the last child leaves at night, sometimes after midnight on both weekdays and weekends.