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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
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The discussion group created this list of actions to create meaningful change to the system within the community.
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.
Please contact Joanne Kelleher, the ECCS director, with your ideas and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.