Communities throughout Cape Cod and the Islands have long contended with underlying challenges related to the provision of quality, affordable childcare and early education services. These dynamics have only been amplified by COVID-19, which has also produced novel complications for both families and providers. While these challenges have immediate effects within the childcare and early education industries, they also threaten broader repercussions for the region's economic recovery and the economic status of women, children, and families.
Supported by $200,000 in state funding, the Cape Cod Commission collaborated with Barnstable County and the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy to conduct a survey-based needs assessment related to early education and childcare for Cape Cod and the Islands. Research culminated in a report detailing existing levels of provision and needs, identifying any gaps in services throughout the region, and exploring potential strategies for mitigating gaps in services, providing a foundation for improving the accessibility of services in the region.
The project aimed to better understand existing levels of provision and needs in the early education and childcare industries, identify gaps in services, and explore potential strategies for improving the accessibility of services in the region. This assessment is based, in large part, on two surveys: one of families with small children and a second of childcare providers. Input from both groups was critical to better understanding gaps in access to childcare. These surveys were conducted from mid-April to early May.
For Family Survey respondents on the Cape and Islands, finding affordable, quality child care has been difficult. For Provider Survey respondents, finding and retaining qualified staff to support their centers has become increasingly challenging since the pandemic began. Families would benefit from expanded access to affordable early education and childcare, particularly for those families who make just above the income threshold for receiving state subsidies. Providers face challenges with recruitment and retention, in large part due to the low salaries of childcare providers. Increasing salaries and providing more benefits (e.g., healthcare, housing assistance) for childcare providers may help attract and retain more providers.