No Small Matter

Posted on December 1st, 2020

A Follow up to the Viewing and Discussion of the Acclaimed Documentary

In November 2020, our community had the opportunity to view the acclaimed documentary “No Small Matter” and then be part of the follow-up discussion. 

Here are some of the facts shared in the movie and comments from our discussion. The discussion groups were given three topics: How the issues brought up in No Small Matter apply to our town, what can our town do to improve the situation, and what issues need to be addressed at the State or Federal issue.

Quality Childcare is Expensive

  • In 2017, 62% of mothers with children under the age of 5 were working out of the home (vs.12% in 1950).
  • Every week over 11 million U.S. children under the age of five spend more than half their waking hours in care of someone other than their parents.
  • The cost of childcare is the same as in-state college tuition. Although there is some support to provide funding for childcare for lower income families, it is not available for middle class families. 

This lack of support for those who “make too much” to qualify for subsidies but not enough to pay for childcare while still making ends meet is true in Southington. The Connecticut Care 4 Kids program provides a childcare subsidy for low income working class families. The income limit for families applying for Care 4 Kids must be less than 50% of the State Median Income (SMI), which is just over $60K per year for a family of four. In October 2019, there were only 16 children receiving the Care 4 Kids subsidy in Southington, despite the changing economic situation in town:

  • The Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility has increased in the Southington School District from 7.5% on 10/1/2008 to 24% last year. (Edsight)
  • The 2020 United Way ALICE report shows that 29% of Southington’s households earn less than the basic cost of living for the area.

The Early Childhood Collaborative will share reminders about the Care 4 Kids subsidy since there used to be 4 times the number of Southington children participating.Finding openings for quality care, especially for infants and toddlers, is difficult in town. There are no providers offering care for early or late hours. 


Family income is a strong predictor of how well a child will do in the future.

  • By age 3, children of higher income families have heard an average of 30 million more words then their lower income peers. 
  • By age 5, they have spent 1,300 more hours in places like museums and libraries.
  • By the first day of kindergarten, higher income children are as much as two years ahead in language development.
  • Lower income fourth graders who are reading below grade level are 13 times more likely to drop out of high school.
  • Youth who drop out of high school are 50% more likely to be unemployed and 8% more likely to be incarcerated.

Southington has several preschool options and for-profit enrichment activities but not everyone can afford them. The Southington Public Library and the Family Resource Center offer free programs for young children but they are frequently full with a waiting list due to space limitations. The Southington Public Library building project has identified a larger program space and an expanded Children’s department as one of the community needs. The ECCS will continue to share information about these resources. As a middle class town, residents don’t want taxes raised. Southington doesn’t get Alliance/Federal education funds. (This reduces the likelihood of expanded Pre-K within the public school system.) Southington doesn’t have space in school buildings if universal preschool is required within the school districts. Southington has a local early childhood collaborative (many towns do not), we need to leverage that. Storytelling that is personal, local and immediate. The Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington could use more supporters, additional board members and a reliable funding stream.  

Quality and Readiness

One segment of the movie that the discussion group commented on was around the work that the United States military is doing to improve early childhood education. They recognize that quality early education is important and have developed a system of accredited early care and education programs for military members to use.

  • The number one security issue in this country is the readiness of citizens to serve in society and the military. Currently, 71% of 17 to 24 year olds are ineligible to join the military due to them being too poorly educated, not healthy enough, or having prior convictions. And if they don’t qualify for the military, what is the likelihood that they will work at someplace like IBM or General Motors?

The development of executive function, the mental processes that enable us to follow instructions, pay attention and plan, happens in young children through play and the support of a caring adult.   An issue related to quality care is the low wages of childcare providers and staff turnover.

  • Childcare providers earn in the bottom 3% of all wages across the U.S.

Several of the childcare centers in town are currently recruiting for staff and are having issues finding qualified candidates. The State of CT has added requirements that childcare providers have an associates or bachelors degree yet K to 12 public school teachers with the same credentials earn much more and have benefits. 


This statistic was eye opening to the discussion group.

  • Educational spending at a national level is $1.3 trillion. Of this 52% is spent for grades K to 12, 39% for post-secondary, 5% for corporate training but only 3% for early education.

The discussion group talked about the spending in town. In Southington, there are no funds in the Town budget spent on early education (Youth Services focuses on older children.) The Southington Public School budget supports the preschool students who are required to receive special education services but the community peers who attend preschool at Hatton or Strong Elementary Schools pay a tuition fee out of pocket. The SPS does provide some support for the Family Resource Center which is located in Strong school and runs classes for youth and their caregiver.The Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington does not receive any Town or Board of Education funding and is supported by grants from foundations and donations from businesses and individuals.The group asked if the Town of Southington would provide funding to the ECCS. They do support Youth Services (which is focused on teens). The BOE budget is already tight. 


The movie discussed the long term impacts of toxic stress on the developing brain, which happens even in communities like Southington. No Small Matters was released prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but with many pre-school opportunities closing or moving online the discussion group was concerned about the long-term impacts of the pandemic on young children. The ECCS is also concerned about the financial and mental health of the childcare providers in town as they balance reduced class sizes, increased costs, and health concerns for their staff and the children they care for. 

Next Steps

The discussion group created this list of actions to create meaningful change to the system within the community.

  1. The Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington will continue to educate parents/guardians about the importance of selecting quality child care and how to make that decision.
  2. The ECCS will continue to provide education to childcare providers about how to provide quality care.
  3. Educate appointed/elected officials. (Have never seen an official who is really educated and informed not support an issue.)
  4. Create a community awareness campaign regarding outcomes of quality childcare and need for additional seats.
  5. Steve Madancy, the Assistant Superintendent, will highlight this movie and discussion during a future BoE meeting.

The No Small Matter movie is now available for purchase if you want to view it yourself or with your co-workers, you can also watch on iTunes and Google Play. 

How Can You Help?

The Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington’s mission is to help parents/guardians and childcare providers in ensuring that our youngest citizens are healthy and ready to learn. But we can’t do it alone.

  • Help us educate your constituents, co-workers and families that early education, and funding to support it, is important for the future of our community. 
  • Join the ECCS Board or volunteer for a project.
  • Make a donation to the ECCS.
  • If you are on social media, please like/follow the ECCS, the links are below.
  • Help our State partners in advocating for Federal funds to #SaveChildCare.
  • Support the expansion of the Southington Public Library.
  • If you know of anyone who is interested in becoming an early childhood educator or starting their own family childcare business, please refer them to the ECCS and we can help them get started.
  • Remember that childcare providers and early childhood educators are  essential workers not only during a pandemic but for the future of our children.

Please contact Joanne Kelleher, the ECCS director, with your ideas and suggestions at