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    Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    Childcare pilot program in line for southeastern Connecticut

    State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, (left) receives the Children's Champion Award from Merrill Gay, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, with preschool children looking on and Susan Purcell, executive director of the Carelot Children’s Center (right) Friday, June 21, 2024 in Waterford. State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, also received the Children's Champion Award later in the morning at the Carelot Children’s Center in East Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, receives the Children's Champion Award Friday, June 21, 2024 at the Carelot Children’s Center in East Lyme. (Photo courtesy of Holly Cheeseman).
    State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, right, talks with Holly Bevilacqua, left, COO of Carelot Children's Center, with Merrill Gay, center, executive director of Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance listening before McCarty received the Children's Champion Award from the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance at Carelot Children's Center Friday, June 21, 2024, in Waterford. State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, also received the Children's Champion Award later in the morning at the Carelot Children’s center in East Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, receives the Children's Champion Award Friday, June 21, 2024 at the Carelot Children’s Center in East Lyme. (Photo courtesy of Holly Cheeseman).
    State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, receives flowers from Parker Dempsky, 5, center, Miami Camby, 4, and Kyle Wilson, 3, with Susan Purcell, right, executive director of Carelot Children’s Center, assisting with Merrill Gray, executive director of Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance looking on at the start of the ceremony for McCarty to receive the Children's Champion Award from the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance at Carelot Children's Center Friday, June 21, 2024, in Waterford. State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, also received the Children's Champion Award later in the morning at the Carelot Children’s Center in East Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, speaks after receiving the Children's Champion Award from Merrill Gay, left, executive director of Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, in a preschool classroom at Carelot Children's Center in Waterford, June 21, 2024. State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, also received the Children's Champion Award later in the morning at the Carelot Children’s Center in East Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, talks with Merrill Gay, left, executive director of Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, after she received the Children's Champion Award from Gay in a preschool classroom at Carelot Children's Center while the children go back to playing with Susan Purcell, second from right, executive director of Carelot Children’s Center, and Kelly Dahl, right, site manager, Friday, June 21, 2024 in Waterford. State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, also received the Children's Champion Award later in the morning at the Carelot Children’s Center in East Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    A new pilot program in which the state, employees and employers that choose to be part of the initiative will share the cost of childcare is being planned for New London County.

    Electric Boat confirmed it will participate in the Tri-Share Child Care Matching Program and is contributing $500,000.

    The state Office of Early Childhood is in the planning stages for implementation of the program which will serve 200 to 250 children, said Maggie Adair, communications and legislative program manager for the state Office of Early Childhood.

    That is one of the components of the legislation, informed by the state’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Care and the Office of Early Childhood, that the General Assembly recently passed.

    State Reps. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, and Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, received Children’s Champion Awards from the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance for their work to improve access to childcare at events Friday at the Carelot Children’s Center in Waterford and the Carelot Children’s Center in East Lyme.

    Eastern Connecticut lacks childcare spots and is considered a “childcare desert,” Beth Bye, commissioner of the state’s Office of Early Childhood has said.

    Holly Bevilacqua, COO and owner of Carelot Children’s Center, Inc., said the East Lyme and Waterford locations have long waiting lists ― out to January ― for infants and toddlers. She expressed appreciation for the legislature’s support in helping families obtain childcare.

    Merrill Gay, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, a statewide organization committed to getting all children healthy and ready to learn in kindergarten, praised McCarty and Cheeseman for their support of early childcare and their leadership in making early childhood education a bipartisan issue.

    McCarty said she served on the Blue Ribbon Panel and has been pushing for early childhood education over her years as a legislator, and now feels like there is a new movement underway that recognizes the importance of early childhood education and the brain development that happens in the first five years of a child’s life.

    She thanked all the childcare providers who don’t get paid what they need to get paid, but “give their heart and soul to their work.”

    “Having affordable, accessible, available childcare is essential not only for families, but for businesses,” Cheeseman said in a phone interview. “We need mothers and fathers to know their children will be in a safe and high-quality environment so they can go out to work and create the kind of life they want for their children.”

    Cheeseman said H.B. 5002 allows the businesses and nonprofits, and the government to contribute to an early childcare fund to promote early childcare and education.

    It also creates the Tri-Share Child Care Matching Program, modeled after a Michigan program, which would allow employers in New London County to sign up to participate in the pilot program in which the parents, their employers and state would each pay a third of the child care costs, said Gay.

    Cheeseman said the Tri-Share program is being funded by $1.8 million in American Rescue Act funding, and Electric Boat is kicking in $500,000.

    With Electric Boat increasing its hiring, the program could be an attractive benefit to prospective employees, who may see the high cost of housing and child care in Connecticut as potential problems, Gay said.

    The legislation also calls for a one-time stipend for childcare workers in state-funded facilities, Cheeseman said.

    McCarty said another recently passed bill, S.B. 14, also has measures to improve childcare, including expanding an incubator program across the state to establish “more centers to help train, educate and certify aspiring child care educators.”

    In addition to the two bills, the state approved $18.8 million to fund the Care 4 Kids child care subsidy program.

    Gay lauded the initiatives, but said there is more work to be done.

    “One of the big challenges that has led to places like eastern Connecticut being a childcare desert is that it is hard to attract people to this field because the wages are not as high as they should be,” he said.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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