Improving child care options for Philly’s low- and middle-income families

There are 100,000 children in Philadelphia 5 and younger, but only 15,000 slots in “high-quality” child care centers.

The William Penn Foundation has awarded $4.5 million to The Reinvestment Fund to start changing those steep odds.

The goal is to improve the high-quality child care center options that serve Philadelphia’s low- and moderate-income families, said Laura Sparks, chief philanthropy officer for the foundation.

“More than half of the city’s third-graders did not read at grade level in 2013, and the research clearly shows that a strong early childhood education can predict academic success and reduce behavioral problems in later schooling,” she said. “So we were really trying to look for solutions to this problem.”

Sparks said the foundation already has bankrolled creation of a map to pinpoint areas where low-income Philadelphia families face the biggest child care shortages.

“Only 15 percent of the licensed child care providers in Philadelphia are high quality based on the state’s rating system,” she said. “And that means that very, very few children are able to access the kinds of experiences that they need to be ready for kindergarten and beyond.”

The Reinvestment Fund’s Ira Goldstein said the goal of the analysis is to understand where the demand for child care was greatest and where the gaps exist.

“We were tasked with trying to figure this out in a way that was sensitive to the notion that a lot of parents are looking for child care near where they live,” he said. “Others are looking at child care opportunities near where they work, and some, obviously, along the way. We also know that there are a lot of people that come into the city of Philadelphia from suburban areas who are using the child care facilities that are within the city.”

The analysis showed that wards along the Delaware River, in North Philadelphia and in the Lower Northeast need additional high-quality slots, Goldstein said.

The next step is to find child care centers in those neighborhoods and in other under-served areas and help them expand.

The Public Health Management Corporation is participating in this effort. PHMC funds reporting at WHYY.

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