That’s why Portland Works for Kids brings together members of the Greater Portland community to make high quality early childhood care and education affordable and accessible to everyone.
High-quality child care is essential for a vibrant, thriving city. It provides a powerful pathway to growing the human capital of a prosperous and sustainable community. It strengthens the workforce and local economy by allowing parents to work, build a career, and pay their bills. It also provides young children with experiences that support school readiness and nurture their cognitive, social, and emotional growth.
Over the past year, the value of early care and education has become top-of-mind for many members of our community, including those who struggle to balance remote working while home with young children. The lack of high-quality early care and education in Portland – and across Maine – has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Portland Works for Kids has developed a policy agenda to address the short- and long-term aspects of the shortage, including advocating for support for providers and families. Short-term, increasing access will help the workforce get back up and running. Long-term, research has shown that quality child care yields better academic and social outcomes for children, safer and healthier communities, a better prepared future workforce, and less spending on social services. Moving forward, this policy agenda will serve to guide our work with stakeholders to make quality child care a reality for our community’s children and families.
Organized into three phases, specific consideration was taken in order to address barriers of equity (access and affordability) and quality, as well as systems needs. The policy agenda was developed to address the following:
RESPOND to the immediate needs of families and childcare providers caused by COVID-19 (Timeframe: immediate)
REBUILD crucial policies so we can move the needle on increasing access to high quality child care in Portland (Timeframe: 1-2 years)
RENEW the early care and education system to ensure that high-quality early childhood care and education is valued and there are regulatory and governmental systems in place so that programs and providers are thriving with equitable access for all families (Timeframe: 3-5 years)
Earlier this year, we developed a list of 2022 priority activities that support these strategies, with a focus on supporting, informing, and growing a sustainable child care ecosystem, including:
Together, we can build a new reality – a community where children and families from all types of backgrounds and circumstances can have the support they need to meet their full potential. It will take all of us, working across sectors, to take action to make this vision a reality.
High quality early care and education is key to workforce productivity and the future success of our children and our community.
Join our coalition: Help us define the system and services we want to see and engage key allies in this movement.
Get involved in the details: We are identifying major gaps in the system and aligning to public PreK expansion. We’re piloting efforts aimed at workforce development, program quality improvement, and informal care providers. We’re also working with national experts to conduct a local comprehensive birth-age 5 fiscal analysis. Finally, we’ve got a committee of local leaders working together to identify revenue needs and new funding mechanisms.
Share the message: It will take community-wide support to make the change we need. To do this, Starting Strong is building a public communications and advocacy campaign.
Make it happen:Communities across the country are making high quality early care and education a reality by empowering local voters to prioritize this issue at the ballot box.
We need YOU to make this possible.
Starting Strong is not alone in this effort, but we are providing staff support for this critical work. Contact us if you’d like to get involved.
Organizations that have partnered in efforts, participated in committees, and/or committed time and/or resources to Portland Works for Kids
Starting Strong’s network of Portland ECE programs and providers:
Catherine Morrill Day Nursery
The Opportunity Alliance
Portland Public Schools
Youth and Family Outreach
The Children’s Odyssey
Shunk Family Child Care
United Way of Southern Maine’s Women United
Family Child Care Association of Maine
Greater Portland Workforce Initiative
Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network
Maine Access Immigrant Network
Maine Association for the Education of Young Children
Starting Strong’s focus on increasing access to early childhood care and education has been informed by local data and national research. In 2018, we contracted with the University of Southern Maine, Data Innovation Project to research the historic and current state of PreK classrooms in the city. This research revealed opportunities to improve our PreK system and laid the groundwork for subsequent PreK expansion planning.
Starting Strong worked with School Readiness Consulting and key stakeholders from Portland to design a strategic plan for PreK expansion that met the needs of families who were most in need and underrepresented in existing programming. The result? Ensuring equitable access for all families clearly meant continuing to develop Portland Public School’s existing mixed delivery public PreK model.
Additionally, a key benefit of this model is the opportunity it provides to support children in Portland beginning at birth. Leveraging investments in PreK to support programs across the community strengthens the web of early care and education providers in Portland and offers parents and families clear benefits. And, data from Starting Strong’s Early Childhood Community Profile shows a significant need to invest in early care and education for infants and toddlers as well.
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