NEWARK – Advocates for Children New Jersey (ACNJ) has partnered with Senator Joseph Vitale (D-19) and Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-19) in the introduction of a budget resolution aimed at addressing child care deserts and the inaccessibility of high-quality infant/toddler care in New Jersey.
The resolution, sponsored by Senator Vitale and Assemblywoman Lopez proposes a $3 million appropriation to incentivize center-based and family child care programs to care for infants and toddlers by providing guaranteed or “contracted” slots to pay for this age group, instead of basing subsidy funding on a daily attendance.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the viability of the state’s child care system,” said ACNJ president/CEO Cecilia Zalkind. Months of a mandated closure, lower enrollment and reduced group size due to emergency standards have affected child care programs for every age group. Long before this public health crisis, however, access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers was already difficult to find for many New Jersey families.”
The high cost of providing infant child care, which requires a lower staff-child ratio – one caregiver to every four infants and additional facility accommodations – has ultimately reduced the market for this type of care. This is especially true for parents who rely on state child care assistance, as centers that accept these child care subsidies often find that they cannot cover costs when it comes to caring for babies.
The budget resolution would focus on those communities considered child care deserts – areas with an insufficient supply of licensed child care. This is defined as having more than 50 children under age 3 with no child care providers or having fewer than 20 percent of available spaces in centers for infants and toddlers who are likely to need child care because all parents in the home are employed.
“Now more than ever, we must do everything in our power to support our child care system,” said Senator Vitale. “Child care is essential to economic activity and this resolution is intended to address a segment of the child care community that has gone unaddressed for far too long. Parents with newborns and toddlers should not be forced to forego quality care due to affordability and providers must receive the necessary support to ensure that infant and toddler care is not financially unfeasible.”
“I applaud Governor Murphy’s commitment to utilizing Federal CARES Act funds to support the childcare system during this crisis,” said Assemblywoman Lopez. “But unfortunately it is not enough. This resolution is directed at building a stronger child care infrastructure for the future and expanding high-quality care for an age group that regularly goes underserved. The resolution will strengthen both parents and providers to ensure children are benefiting from high quality learning experiences.”
“We must be brave and bold in reimagining child care by taking lessons learned from the pandemic,” said Cecilia Zalkind. “This approach is an effective step forward towards the future of child care for our youngest children at the time most critical to support their healthy growth and development.”
The budget resolution has been submitted and will be considered during the upcoming budgetary process.