Preparing For Child Care Reform: How to Improve the Subsidy System to Maximize Future Investment

January 18, 2023


Welcome & Opening Remarks
M. Lee Pelton, President & CEO, The Boston Foundation 
Amy Kershaw, Acting Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care 

Presentation of the Research
Ashley White, Senior Policy Researcher, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation 
Danubia Camargos Silva, Early Childhood Program Officer, The Boston Foundation 

Panel Discussion and Audience Q&A 
Gina Adams, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute
Yaoska Rayo, Mother and Early Childhood Educator 
Tom Weber, Executive Director, MA Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education
Danubia Camargos Silva, Early Childhood Program Officer, The Boston Foundation (Moderator) 

Closing Remarks
Danubia Camargos Silva, Early Childhood Program Officer, The Boston Foundation 

On Wednesday, January 18, the Boston Foundation hosted a forum to discuss a new report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation about our state’s child-care subsidy system, called Preparing for Child-Care Reform. Supported by the Boston Foundation and Eastern Bank Foundation, the report documents a variety of systemic challenges that delay and disrupt access to care for families while generating disincentives for providers to supply subsidized slots. Parallel to this research, the Boston Foundation interviewed families and early childhood educators to bring to life their experiences within the child-care subsidy system. These are shared in a blog post, Families and Educators Can Power Systemic Change, and one of the interviewees, who is both a mother and an early childhood educator, joined the event’s panel discussion.
After welcoming the audience, Boston Foundation CEO and President M. Lee Pelton introduced the Commonwealth’s Acting Commissioner of the Department of Early Education & Care, Amy Kershaw. She expressed appreciation for the report, which supported much of what her department was finding in a review of its processes over the last 10 months. Acknowledging that the subsidy element is just one part of a larger system, she said her team was intent on making it a “modern, flexible, dignified system that is responsive to needs of families and supports them on their economic mobility path, and hopefully disrupts poverty.”
Next, Ashley White, Senior Policy Researcher, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, presented the striking research findings from the report, including the challenges of supply (a contributing factor to the drop in number of kids served per month since 2011), of compensation (subsidies are based on what parents pay rather than what care actually costs), and policies that emphasize enforcement over access, among others.

After her presentation, panelists representing different segments of the early childhood ecosystem discussed the implications of these findings and recommendations to strengthen the subsidy system in Massachusetts, moderated by TBF’s Early Childhood Program Officer Danubia Camargos Silva

Early Childhood Educator Yaoska Rayo, who is also a mother, shared some of her experiences wrestling with the system to try to arrange care for her child while working and trying to advance her education. The complicated pathways and hurdles took an immense amount of work. “People want to improve their lives and not depend on the system,” she said, “but if the system doesn’t actually help them, they’ll always be stuck in the system!” 

Tom Weber, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education, agreed, observing, “It has become a compliance system, not one that’s about achieving supports for students and families. It’s so fearful of fraud it barely functions.” His group came together recognizing that child care is an economic competitiveness issue. “When fully a third of employees have minor children, this is going to impact businesses,” he said, adding, “If it works better for families, for the workforce, it’s better for businesses and the larger economy.”

Bringing a national perspective, Urban Institute Senior Fellow Gina Adams agreed that a preoccupation with fraud and rigid reporting systems tended to backfire. “The challenge in being low-income is not having a lot of control over your life. Having to report every minor change or face fraud charges is not good for anyone.” To reflect the way people live and work now, requirements need updating, and processes should streamline what participants need to report. Adams said, “‘Average’ scenarios are not reality for most people. This is a big equity issue.” Another angle of the conversation was on supply and why providers were leaving the field. Adams said pointedly, “We need to think more about how to make it worthwhile for providers, so that they can practice their profession without getting hurt. For example, we must pay for the cost of care, not market rate for a given neighborhood—that’s inequitable.”

Click here to watch the webinar

Title slide for research presentation. Preparing for Child care Reform: How to Improve the Subsidy System to Maximize Future Investment. Ashley White, Senior Policy Researcher. Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. View slides from this presentation
January 2023 Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Preparing for Child care Reform: How to Improve the Subsidy System to Maximize Future Investment. A black and white photo of a woman playing with a group of kids. Read the report