The First Five

One of the most stressful questions a new parent confronts is, "Who's going to take care of my baby when I go back to work?"

Figuring out the answer to that question is often not easy. When NPR, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 1,000 parents nationwide about their child care experiences, a third reported difficulty finding care.

Sarah Harris / North Country Public Radio


Canton elementary school principal Joe McDonough says pre-k isn’t just fun. It’s essential for kids’ development. "People come to school even at the ripe old age of four with a variety of experiences and levels of knowledge and skills," he said. 

Angela Ray's daughters, Ariana and Kiara
Solvejg Wastvedt/WSKG News

New York governor Andrew Cuomo calls universal preschool one of his big priorities, and last year state lawmakers approved a big grant program to increase full-day preschool slots. It’s $340 million a year for five years. That grant just got approved for its second round, but the first year brought mixed results.

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Serving as a child care provider or as a Pre-Kindergarten instructor is demanding work.   They must satisfy parental and state expectations, endure long hours and cope with low pay.  Why do it? On April 15, WSKG’s Community Conversation explored the demands placed on educators, caregivers and their managers.

njxw/via Flickr

Picture this, working parents: a daycare center, right in the same building as your job. For most, it’s far-fetched. But Kirsten Gillibrand, the U.S. senator from New York, wants to change that. She’s introduced a bill to increase tax breaks for businesses that build onsite child care.

Having child care at work could make a big difference for parents like Stephanie Walsh. Walsh has barely left the house in over a week. She used to go to work every morning, as an accountant at a Southern Tier construction company. But then she had her son Jacob.

Kirsten Gillibrand/via Facebook

Paid family leave is rare in the U.S. It’s when a worker gets time off to care for a new child or sick family member – and gets paid for it. On March 18, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced a bill that would give all workers that flexibility. It applies to both men and women and offers 12 weeks of paid family leave.

Child care and early childhood education continue to draw the attention of policymakers at the state and national levels. New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie recently reconvened the Assembly's child care work group, and President Obama mentioned it in his 2015 State of the Union address. The way states (and nations) tackle these issues can directly influence parents' ability to find quality care.

Solvejg Wastvedt/WSKG News

There’s a popular statistic regarding education for young children: “Every dollar we invest in quality early childhood education saves seven dollars later on.” The statistic appeared in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, and people just keep quoting it.

But it’s a really vague statement. “Early childhood education” can mean a lot of things, and then there’s that all-important phrase “high-quality.”

When I’m at work, who will watch my kid? It's a question parents ask, sometimes well before they start a family. Yet high-quality childcare seems harder and harder to find.

On February 18th, Charles Compton hosted a one hour show on what parents face when they look for childcare. Our guests were Jennifer Perney of the Family Enrichment Network, WSKG Education reporter Solvejg WastvedtLaura Bowen, Executive Director of the childcare center Mom's House, and Jennifer Heggelke, a parent whose son attends Mom's House.