Advancing Access to Childcare Options

New research supports programs looking to increase access to safe and affordable childcare for middle- and low-income families

What Happened?

New research supports programs looking to increase access to safe and affordable childcare for middle- and low-income families. Municipal initiatives are working to improve the quality of childcare for residents with new technologies and funding opportunities.


Chicago is launching a free text messaging service called Connect4Tots that will update parents with information on their child’s care throughout the day. The messages are designed to promote:
  • Parental involvement in education
  • Childcare health updates
  • Accessing social services
  • Engaging in city events

The goal of the next generation 311 service is to empower parents with the tools and information to keep children safe, healthy and on track for future success. The platform is based on the national Text4Baby initiative offered to soon-to-be parents and those caring for an infant. The Connect4Tots project will offer the same resources tailored for parents with older children, as well as inclusion of social services and early childhood education information.

Parents with a child over the age of one in a daycare service will have access to free text messages from the city with news on a variety of childcare-related topics including:

  • Immunizations
  • Nutrition
  • Wellness and exercise
  • Social services
  • Child development strategies
  • City early education programs
  • City events
  • Safety news
  • Disease outbreaks
  • Key product recalls

The Early Learning Executive Council is working with a focus group of Chicago parents to develop message content to ensure the texts are helpful and convenient.

Cost of Childcare

Many families would benefit from increased access to childcare information and early development news. According to a study from Child Care Aware America, many middle- and low-income families are struggling to afford high-quality childcare in their local communities. In major cities such as Chicago and New York, the cost of childcare can account for upwards of 25 percent of a single parent’s income, while communities with lower costs of living can spend less than 10 percent of their income on childcare. In fact, the Center for Family and Policy Research at the University of Missouri found the cost of childcare in 2013 grew eight times as fast as the average family income.

Rising costs coupled with long waiting lists can lead many families to leave their children in less than desirable daycares throughout the work week. Children under the age of five spend an average of 36 hours a week with caretakers, thus the quality of services can be directly linked to early childhood development.

Investing in Families

To directly address the growing need for access to high-quality childcare and early childhood development resources, the federal government is allocating more than $1 billion in the education and development of children through preschool and early learning grants. The investment strategy includes:
  • $330 million from corporate and philanthropic leaders to expand early education programs
  • $750 million in federal grants to support early learning for 63,000 children nationwide
  • Invest in US through the First Five Years Fund
  • Public-private partnerships to support Early Learning Communities

The focus on early childhood development includes increased investments in Preschool Development Grants, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships and new regulations to ensure access to high-quality preschool is improved in underserved communities.

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