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Children’s Agenda calls for universal childcare amid statewide shortage

Cameron 9.jpg
Max Schulte
Sandra Amaro and Phyllip McKnight on the playground at the Cameron Community Ministries afterschool program.

As families in New York state are facing widespread shortages in childcare, the Children’s Agenda calls for greater support from the state.

According to a report by the Children’s Agenda, more than 3,500 childcare programs have closed across the state since the pandemic.

Many providers like Armett Barnes in East Irondequoit have waiting lists of families looking for a place to send their children.

For the last 12 years, Barnes has seen the benefits of childcare for children’s well-being, socially and emotionally, but since the pandemic, she’s seen some dramatic changes in the kind of support children need.

“I'm finding that kids are having more difficulty communicating, or having a difficult time expressing themselves. I believe that the pandemic was life-changing for them as well,” Barnes said.

She says these programs help prepare kids to thrive in a full-time school environment.

“When they get to school, it becomes a struggle, usually, with the social and emotional if that's not under control. They're usually sent home."

But right now, many children are not able to access childcare where they could get that kind of support.

In Monroe County alone, nearly 1,700 children have been forced out of childcare as nearly 200 childcare programs closed since January 2020. That left about 1,700 children without access to those services anymore.

Pete Nabozny with the Children’s Agenda says recovering from this will require structural changes to how childcare is funded. He and other advocates with the Children’s Agenda are proposing universal childcare.

“Something more akin to how we think about public education in the state,” Nabozny said. “And that's ambitious. That's something that's going to take some time. And we think that the state should commit to it and continue to fund it until we get there.”

Nabozny estimates it could cost around $5 billion a year for a state-wide universal program for children up to 12 years old.

In the meantime, he says making stabilization grants for childcare centers permanent could help boost the workforce by increasing wages.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.