The Starting Line: Behind a Push by Foundations to Expand Access to Childcare in Their Cities

Great Learning

The Starting Line: Behind a Push by Foundations to Expand Access to Childcare in Their Cities

Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Source: Inside Philanthropy

The Reinvestment Fund is coordinating efforts in several cities to expand access to high quality childcare using detailed analysis of existing local supply and demand. As access to pre-K becomes more common, childcare could be the next frontier for funders focused on early childhood learning and development, as well as those looking to bolster working families.

Ira Goldstein, the fund’s president of policy solutions, describes the Reinvestment Fund as “a financial institution with a public purpose.”

“We lend money, we make grants, we do research,” he said. “All with an eye toward building up wealth and economic opportunity for people in places for whom that’s a challenge.”

Childcare has been a mainstay of that work since at least the 1990s, Goldstein said, which makes sense, given the fund’s mission to encourage economic opportunity. Childcare has backers among the early childhood development field, but it’s also seen as a tool for economic advancement, especially for women. Access to affordable childcare can mean the difference between returning to work or foregoing an income to stay home with a kid. For single moms, the contrast is especially stark.

Furthermore, the importance of the first five years of a child’s life is becoming increasingly clear as more research on early childhood development emerges. By 18 months, disparities in a child’s vocabulary start to appear, based on their parents’ income and education levels, according to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. By age three, kids with college-educated caregivers have vocabularies that are two to three times bigger than kids whose parents didn’t finish high school.

That means kids from low-income households are more likely to enter school already behind. Once kids fall behind, it’s very hard to catch up. That means funders interested in early childhood development are increasingly expanding their work to include interventions to reach kids before they enter school. Sometimes, that means reaching parents or creating literacy-rich public spaces. It also means tackling childcare. The Reinvestment Fund is part of that work.

About five years ago, the Reinvestment Fund started collaborating with foundations interested in expanding access to high-quality childcare in their cities. So far, the work includes collaborations with the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, the Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation in Atlanta and its surrounding counties, the Bainum Family Foundation in Washington, D.C., the Foundation for Newark’s Future in Newark, New Jersey, and the Nicholson and the Henry and Marilyn Taub foundations in Paterson City and Passaic County, New Jersey.

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