Pilot program will offer early morning childcare in Boston 

5 a.m. start could help construction, hospitality workers 

CHRISTINA MORRIS AND her partner, Boston residents who are both union carpenters, are raising four children ages two to 10. On the days they have to be at work by 7 a.m. – some days its earlier — the adults wake up at 4 a.m. at their Hyde Park home to get ready and pack lunches, then they wake the kids up at 4:45. They leave by 5:30 a.m., drop the younger kids at their grandmother’s house, then the older kids get a 6:30 a.m. bus to school. Morris and her partner hop on the Silver Line to work. 

Morris said the situation “isn’t ideal.” Everything – waking up, leaving the house, catching public transportation – must go seamlessly for them to make it to work on time. The grandmother who is watching the two toddlers is also taking care of her elderly mother and has her own doctor’s appointments. 

“Each time she’s not able to watch the children means my partner or I have to take time off work, which jeopardizes our careers,” Morris said. 

A union-backed coalition, with help from the city of Boston, is launching a pilot program to provide childcare in the early morning, for workers in industries like construction that do not have standard work hours. 

Morris plans to be among the first participants. She said until now, she could not find childcare with early enough hours for her two younger children. Early start childcare, she said, will provide more reliable childcare and peace of mind that she will not have to miss work as often 

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Care That Works announced the program at a virtual press conference on Wednesday. Care That Works, a campaign to advocate for policies that provide affordable and accessible childcare to working families, is a project of Community Labor United, a coalition of unions and community organizing groups. 

The city of Boston is contributing $25,000. 

Walsh said the COVID-19 pandemic “shined a bright light” on the many inequities in society, particularly hurting women and people of color. To create a more just and equitable society, Walsh said, requires the city “to show childcare is a public good, and it’s our collective responsibility.” 

Jynai McDonald, family coordinator for SEIU Local 509, which represents childcare workers, said the program will begin with five family childcare providers in Boston who will offer care beginning at 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. The coalition plans to recruit more providers to expand the program. 

Care That Works will provide stipends to the providers to make the schedule adjustment, and families will pay the standard rate that the provider charges – which ranges from $290 to $400 a week for full-time care.  

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Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Lindsay McCluskey, deputy director of Community Labor United, said the pilot program will last for three years and could then become permanent. She could not say how many childcare slots will be available, since the number is likely to fluctuate depending on how many providers there are and how many children each provider can accept. Care That Works is working with several unions to find interested families.  

While organizers said the program fills a need that existed even before coronavirus hit, the pandemic only exacerbated the challenges facing families when parents work non-standard hours. McCluskey said there is likely to be a backsliding in women’s economic progress, as women have tended to bear the brunt of childcare during the pandemic. “I hope this can keep women in the workforce and open new doors to women who haven’t been able to pursue good jobs in fields like construction or hospitality,” McCluskey said. 

But all parents will benefit. During the press conference, construction apprentice Matthew Hamilton said in a video message that as a single father with custody of his 5-year-old son and no local friends or family who can act as caregivers, he considered switching fields in order to be a better dad. Hamilton said Care That Works helped him find childcare beginning at 5 a.m. “They allowed me to continue my career and be a dad,” he said. “That’s absolutely priceless to me.”