Nothing is more personal than a family’s choices regarding child care. And little matters more to the entire state’s economy than the availability of high-quality child care in the places where it’s needed.

That both statements are true shows the complexity of the child care shortage in Maine. Child care is a health issue, an education issue, a workforce issue and an economic opportunity issue that needs to be addressed from multiple directions at once if families are going to have what they need to accomplish the difficult work of raising children.

That’s why the Legislature passed L.D. 1712, An Act to Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Success, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. The bill is now on Gov. Mills’ desk, and she should sign it.

The bill builds on the success of Elevate Maine, a public-private partnership in Somerset County that works with families, day care providers, local schools and health agencies. The program has helped children in their first four years get ready for school, while giving them access to health care and screenings for developmental delays where early intervention makes a huge difference.

The program also makes training and support available to providers, helping them improve the quality of their programs and develop a workforce. And it offers coaching to parents who are learning how to give their children what they need to be happy and healthy.

Advertisement

The bill, which would use the Elevate Maine model in five other areas, received strong support from educators, daycare providers and child advocates at a public hearing in May, and passed both houses of the Legislature. With a final unanimous vote, the Appropriations Committee approved funding the bill through the state budget.

The level of support is impressive, but the lone voice in opposition at the public hearing came from the Mills administration.

Todd Landry, director of the Office of Child and Family Services, spoke against the bill, arguing that it would duplicate efforts already underway as part of the administration’s Child Care Plan for Maine. Landry said it would be better to monitor child care initiatives funded by the American Rescue Plan Act before committing to any state program that will require state funding in the future.

Gov. Mills should not accept this logic. More than 70 percent of Maine children under the age of 6 live in households where all of the parents work, and one in five lives in an area considered a “child care desert,” in which working parents have to drive long distances to find safe child care.

When the need is so great, it doesn’t make sense to limit the state’s efforts to expand options and improve quality. Children develop too quickly to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

Maine should help families now, with all the resources that are available. Expanding a program that has been a proven success is a good investment in our future.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.