Mayor Wu announces establishment of early childhood office to prioritize welfare of young children and their families

The Mayor also announced the results of the 2021 Child Care Census Survey Report

Mayor Michelle Wu today announced the creation of the Office of Early Childhood to advance the administration’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality education and care for all children under five. The new office will expand access to early learning and child care programs, invest in Boston’s early learning and child care workforce, and serve as a central entry point for residents seeking information on early learning and child care programs and comprehensive services for young children and their families. The Office will respond to the needs highlighted in the Boston’s 2021 Child Care Census Survey Report, which the mayor also released today. The mayor made the announcement of the Early Childhood Office at the East Boston YMCA, a key partner in Boston children’s programming and a Boston UPK site.

“Every investment in our children and families to close the gaps in early childhood education and care is an investment in our collective future,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how the lack of affordable and accessible child care is straining working families and entire communities. Together with our community partners, this office will be essential in preparing children for a life full of opportunity and in supporting the great work of our child care providers.

The Office will advance the Mayor’s work to put the City’s youngest residents and their families first by:

  • Accelerate the creation of a universal pre-K system that extends to Boston Public Schools (BPS), community organizations and family child care programs, and expand high-quality, affordable options for infants and toddlers.
  • Create a one-stop shop for registration and access to early learning and child care programs by creating an accessible, multilingual platform so options are clear, streamlined, and accessible to all families.
  • Invest in the early learning and child care workforce by creating sustainable career paths that recognize early childhood educators as professionals essential to the well-being of young children.
  • Coordinate outreach and information for municipal and community programs that impact the lives of young children and their families.

The city will hire a manager from the new Office of Early Childhood to advance this work in partnership with Boston Public Schools, the Mayor’s Office for the Advancement of Women, the Boston Public Health Commission, Centers for the Boston Youth and Families, other city departments, and community organizations that serve Boston’s children and families.

“We are excited to further the City’s investment in accessible, high-quality child care solutions for early years professionals, families, and their little ones,” said Alexandra Valdez, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office for the Advancement of Women. “The Early Years Office will continue its work to close child care gaps with the voices of the community at the centre. This will not only create opportunities to further support a child’s caregiving needs and early development, but also strengthen a profession that is overwhelmingly represented by women, especially women of color, and our immigrant community.

Prior to the establishment of the Office of Early Childhood Education, the Mayor’s Office for the Advancement of Women (MOWA) ran the child care initiatives. Some of the ministry’s activities include the Child Care Entrepreneur Fund, a grant program for home child care providers to learn business skills and receive flexible funding. Through the Fund, the city has supported more than 200 providers with multilingual interpretation and instruction to expand the reach of the program in Boston’s most diverse communities. Other projects include the Child Care Contribution Fund, the City’s annual child care survey, and studies of child care issues such as changing care needs after the outbreak of COVID-19. The office is currently rolling out opportunities to support preschool and child care professionals through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Boston Public Schools has led the way in creating a blended delivery system for Universal Pre-K (UPK) that incorporates both BPS classrooms and community organizations. In its third year, the UPK program currently serves 664 pre-K students through 21 community organizations across 32 program sites; 2,556 non-specialised places in K1 for 4 year olds and 880 places in special education for 3 and 4 year olds in K0/K1.

In 2021, UPK expanded to include a pilot program for 3-year-olds in addition to 4-year-olds in 2021-22. For the next school year in 2022-23, Boston UPK plans to expand to serve up to 930 children in community facilities, including 600 4-year-olds and 330 3-year-olds. The City of Boston and Boston Public Schools recently issued an invitation to tender (IFB) to identify other community organizations interested in joining the UPK program. The IFB deadline is April 4, and more details can be found on the BPS Universal Pre-K website.

By investing in and developing the workforce of early childhood educators, supporting early learning and child care businesses, and streamlining information and access for families, the Office of early childhood will support the continued expansion of the UPK by increasing the number of seats available for infants and toddlers.

“I see nothing more important than ensuring that every child has a good start to a great education and that starts with access to high quality early learning opportunities,” said Brenda Cassellius, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools. “I am delighted to see Mayor Wu focusing on a blended delivery system that builds on a strong foundation and close partnership with BPS.”

“I am grateful to Mayor Wu and his team and everyone who has worked so hard to move this work forward on behalf of our children and their families,” said Jeri Robison, Boston School Committee Chairman. “As someone who has dedicated my entire career to ensuring greater access to all-inclusive early education and care, I am encouraged today to see this next important step in the progress of our city. We send a message to our families today that Boston is united in our work to help our youngest learners get off to a good start with new support for them and their families.

“We are delighted with Mayor Wu’s decision to establish a new office focused on early childhood,” said James Morton, President and CEO of YMCA of Greater Boston. “The Y has worked with many stakeholders and community partners to elevate and coordinate early childhood opportunities in the city of Boston. Our East Boston YMCA Early Childhood Education Center provides much needed support and comprehensive services to our families, and we are delighted to welcome Mayor Wu as she makes this important announcement.

“The healthy development of young children and families begins with connecting people in underserved communities in our city to affordable and accessible resources for childhood,” said Cherie Craft, Founder and CEO of Smart from the Start. “Smart from the Start is excited to work with the mayor and this new early years office to connect with families from all walks of life to get quality care and programs.”

Additionally, on Wednesday, Mayor Wu released the 2021 Child Care Census Survey Report, led by the Mayor’s Office of Advancement of Women. Since 2019, the annual Child Care Survey has asked parents and caregivers directly about their early education and care needs to better understand how families access and experience care for their children, aged from five years and under.

This year’s City of Boston Child Care Census Survey asked families about their experiences and challenges with child care during the pandemic, and found that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing care gaps in the city. Key findings include:

  • For children of all ages in the survey sample, respondents use parent/guardian care more than they would like.
  • 81% of respondents using a parent/guardian custody arrangement for their children are women, which interferes with their career desires.
  • 58% of respondents would prefer formal child care arrangements, whether centre-based, family-based or school-based, but are unable to access them.
  • The average cost of center care is higher than the Massachusetts state average, which is already the second highest in the nation behind Washington, D.C. For 41% of children in child care, the cost exceeds 10% of the their family’s income.

The city’s 2022 child care census survey is currently underway and is seeking public comment. Families with at least one child aged zero to five are encouraged to complete the online survey, available in seven languages, here. Alternatively, families can complete the physical survey, which was recently sent to Boston City residents with the Annual city census. You can find more information about the Mayor’s Office for the Advancement of Women and its annual Child Care Census survey. here.