Pandemic leads to rethinking of childcare

The shuttering of daycares last spring made apparent to workers and employers alike the importance of childcare to a functioning economy. Now, experts hope that one silver lining of the pandemic will be rethinking how the childcare system works – how it is structured and how it is paid for.

“What I hope is that we will hang on to some of the lessons we’ve learned, which is one very simple one — that early care and education is absolutely central to family life and to a functioning economy,” said Stephanie Jones, co-director of the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

Jones and the initiative’s co-director, Nonie Lesaux, spoke on The Codcast about the changing childcare landscape. Both said they hope a new focus on childcare funding by President Biden can improve the historically underfunded industry.

“I think the Biden administration is onto something, which is that we need a real stimulus and we need to depart from traditional funding mechanisms and build in more flexibility and more innovation to bring more stability and continuity to the field,” Lesaux said. That might mean paying centers based on their capacity rather than on a per-child basis, so if a center loses a child for a few weeks, it does not automatically lose money, she said. The funding should match “the scale and the scope of the setting and its service to that community and those families,” she said.

Massachusetts’s childcare system today is largely private pay, with some state subsidies available for low-income families. The state has some of the nation’s most expensive childcare, and even with that, childcare workers are low paid resulting in high turnover.

Some state advocates have been pushing for more public funding of childcare. Biden’s proposed COVID-19 stimulus package would include $40 billion for childcare, with money for both providers and families.

Jones said an important part of the Biden-Harris approach is that it considers the family as a whole, and takes into account the needs of families, childcare workers, and centers. She said policies should consider initiatives like expanding the child tax credit along with providing professional development and a living wage for early educators. Lesaux noted that countries with strong universal pre-kindergarten often combine that with other family supports, like longer paid maternity leave.

In the short term, Jones said, there is a need to support families and children as society emerges from the pandemic. The pandemic has created stress for families, which can affect children. Many children have been pulled out of group settings.

I worry less that children are missing out on some really important developmental milestone because we know from evidence that children bounce back and those skills can be built later on,” Jones said. “I do worry a little when we head toward reopening that we will skip over spending some time on those key social emotional skills because we’re really worried about things like learning loss.”

Longer term, Jones and Lesaux said the question becomes whether society will shift toward treating childcare more like a public good – similar to K-12 education – and whether new efforts will let states experiment with more flexible methods of providing care. For example, if flexible work opportunities increase, parents may no longer be looking for the standard weekday nine-to-five care.

“I think it’s an open question whether we can seize the moment to really lift it up in ways that are lasting and transformative for a sector that has been relatively fragile and under-attended to,” Lesaux said.



Birth control legislation passed with great fanfare in 2017 but then one of its key provisions — prescriptions for a year’s supply — fell through the cracks.

The state’s contract tracing collaborative, run by the nonprofit Partners in Health, lays off 10 percent of its workforce.

Opinion: Vic Gatto, the chief operating officer of Palmer Renewable Energy, says science is on his side in his bid to open a biomass power plant in Springfield. … Amanda Hunter of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation says the old boys network Boston politics is on its way out. … Erin McAleer of Project Break, Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Everett and Rep. Andy Vargas of Haverhill back free meals for all kids at school. Marinell Rousmaniere of Edvestors says math is taking a big hit during the pandemic. … Four Cambridge officials — Sumbul Saddiqui, Allana Mallon, Quinton Zondervan, and Mark McGovern back a black-owned marijuana store in Harvard Square. … Amanda Hunter of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation says the Boston mayor’s race shows the old boys network is finally fading out. 




Public health experts say Gov. Charlie Baker is moving too fast in his reopening moves that take effect today and later this month. (Boston Globe

Baker’s public safety cabinet secretary was vaccinated against COVID-19 as a “first-line responder.” (Boston Globe)

Marijuana regulators are rethinking the state’s strict ultra-sterile requirement for cannabis cultivation. (Boston Globe)

WBUR scrubs the tiny nonprofit behind the state’s troubled website for making COVID-19 appointments. 


Could the pandemic further erode the traditional New England town meeting? (Associated Press)

A proposed bill would require communities to audit their expenses related to marijuana shops, and refund the shops if the business paid more in community impact fees than the municipality actually spent. (Gloucester Daily Times)

A live baby was found on Friday in a trash barrel on Dorchester Avenue in Boston. (Dorchester Reporter)

Many South Shore towns pay a PR firm to disseminate information. At least 14 towns and school districts have spent more than $390,000 in taxpayer money to pay John Guilfoil Public Relations. (The Patriot Ledger)

North Quincy residents are plagued by recurring power blackouts. (The Patriot Ledger)

Fairhaven’s search for a town administrator got more complicated after one candidate threatened to sue one of the selectmen. (South Coast Today


The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine won several key federal approvals over the weekend and the company says it plans to make 20 million doses available by the end of March and 100 million by June. (NPR)

Attorney General Maura Healey, who has been stepping up her criticism of the Baker administration recently, called the governor’s vaccine rollout frustration and described some aspects of it as a “huge failure.” (GBH)

CareWell Urgent Care centers cancel appointments for people to get their second doses of the COVID vaccine, citing a lack of supply. (MassLive)

The Springfield Republican’s Stephanie Barry looks at how much new information has come out of the legislative oversight hearings on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

Seniors getting the COVID vaccine recall getting the first available doses of the polio shot. (Telegram & Gazette)

After the death of her young son, an Oxford mom becomes an activist educating parents about CMV, a virus that causes birth defects and potentially death in babies. (Telegram & Gazette)


Former president Donald Trump makes clear to a convention of conservatives that he’s not going anywhere, and hints at a possible presidential run in 2024. (Washington Post

Hoping to head off the damage from accusations of sexual harassment, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issues an apology (of sorts), saying he may have made comments that could “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” with a 25-year-old female aide. (New York Times) Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty says it seems likely now to be a matter of when, not if, Cuomo will resign. 


An analysis by a Boston University professor finds that five State House districts and a state Senate district are likely to become majority-minority with the latest census figures. (Telegram & Gazette)


Massachusetts’ unemployment benefits system is still being targeted by bogus claims. (Gloucester Daily Times)


An astounding 40 percent of Boston Public Schools juniors and seniors were deemed chronically absent last fall, a figure that augurs poorly for their high school completion rates. (Boston Globe

A Lowell school committee member resigns after referring to the Gloucester schools’ director of finance using an anti-Semitic slur. (Gloucester Daily Times)


A new documentary, The Lightkeepers, features some of the last remaining lighthouse keepers in New England. (Gloucester Daily Times)


The assassin for a brutal Boston drug gang is seeking compassionate release from prison. (MassLive)


Gannett showing some promise as digital subscriptions pick up and losses narrow in the fourth quarter. (USA Today)


Norwell’s first police chief, Kenneth Bradeen, dies at 99. (The Patriot Ledger