Child Care Providers: The Workforce Behind the Workforce in Maine
Investments in child care programs with highly-qualified teaching staff set kids on the path to success
Quality child care can strengthen the current and future workforce, contribute to a strong economy and public safety, and enhance national security. Unfortunately, Maine’s child care system does not meet the needs of our state’s children and families. When families do not have the child care they need, parents’ work productivity falls, resulting in costs to parents, their employers, and, ultimately, taxpayers. There are other consequences as well. Maine jails are full of people serving time for serious and costly crimes. It doesn’t have to be that way. Providing at-risk children with high-quality early learning opportunities can help reduce the human and fiscal costs of crime in the future, by setting children up for success in school and beyond. Further, our national security relies on qualified young adults who are ready, willing, and able to serve in the U.S. military. However, educational deficits, health issues, and behavior problems (substance abuse and crime) currently prevent 68 percent of Maine youth from qualifying for service. Healthy early development sets the stage for children’s future success. Without improvements to the child care system, our nation risks having an even smaller recruiting pool in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated longstanding challenges faced by the child care system. Many Maine child care providers closed temporarily during the pandemic, and 141 providers have closed permanently. Even among the providers that have reopened, many are operating at reduced capacity, due to COVID-related precautions and/or staff shortages. In addition, there has been a 19 percent decline in child care workers, further impairing a sector that cannot meet the overwhelming demand for its services. As a result of these shortcomings, many parents, especially mothers, have been forced to reduce their work hours or leave the workforce entirely.
Building a world class child care system is a key component of Maine’s 10-year economic strategy and plan.
Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, ReadyNation member
As our state responds to the challenges presented by the pandemic, policymakers must continue to grow access to quality child care. A fundamental feature of child care quality is highly-qualified teachers who are well-trained both before and during their service and who need to be adequately compensated. Maine policymakers must address the needs of the child care workforce to ensure that families have the child care they need, parents can return to their jobs, and children can be set on the path to educational success. In particular, Maine’s child care workforce solutions must include increased compensation and benefits, scholarships, and apprenticeships, along with other innovative solutions. Action and innovation now can improve the experiences of Maine children today and strengthen our state in the years to come.