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 it’s 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.
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.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.