Home child care providers in RI need a fair contract
I, and providers like me, work every day to provide the best start in life for the children in our care. Yet we do this work without adequate compensation/funding, without paid assistants, without adequate paid time off, without pension benefits, and in some cases, without health care. McKee talks about investing in child care. But the contract he offers to home childcare providers leaves home childcare providers like me behind.
Although the Governor is proposing to increase funding, it does not go far enough to bring about the systemic changes we need. Child care providers are paid through CCAP, the Child Care Assistance Program. Currently, CCSI pays providers less than $200 per child per week. During the pandemic, I only cared for two children for over six months. Despite improved pandemic rates (which have now expired), I was still getting less than $450 a week which I had to stretch to pay my mortgage and utilities and buy the toys, equipment and cleaning supplies I needed. needed to stay open. Even when I have more children enrolled, after managing my expenses, I have far too little left to live on. If I had an assistant, I would earn even less – no wonder so few child care providers can afford to hire one.
The governor has proposed spending money to attract new child care providers and investing in more educational opportunities. But almost every day, suppliers like me decide that we can no longer afford to keep our doors open. Our parents rely on us to provide affordable, high-quality child care options located in their own neighborhood. Every time a provider leaves the workforce, badly needed home child care spaces disappear. How does the governor propose to bring new people into this job if he can’t keep the people who are already doing it? For many of us, this contract is our last chance to stay in the job. If CCAP rates and other benefits don’t improve dramatically, we’ll leave, new hires won’t stay, and the whole child care system will be weakened.
I know the children in my care and their parents rely on me to provide reliable and quality services. Every day I work to try to do more and give more with too few resources. It is time for Rhode Island leaders to provide the funding necessary to address these systemic issues in our home child care services. Claimants like me deserve health benefits, vacations and the right to retire. We deserve to be paid fairly for our work. And we deserve the chance to advance in the careers we choose without worrying about where our next rent, mortgage, or utility payment will come from.
McKee and Matos need to do more than just talk about the importance of child care. They need to invest in me and the rest of the home child care providers across the state. We have clearly stated what we need to stabilize and grow our workforce. It is now the administration’s turn to respect its commitments.
Lourdes Urena is a child care center in Johnston, RI, and a member of the bargaining committee for the New England Health Care Employees Union SEIU 1199NE.