Hawaiʻi is in an early childhood crisis.
Every child deserves a strong start in life. But for too many children, their opportunities are limited by where they live and their family’s income. Early care and learning programs, also known as child care, support children and families through critical times in their lives.
But Hawaiʻiʻs current child care system is not working. In fact, it’s designed to fail children, families, and communities. Costs are too high for families, and child care workers can’t earn enough to stay in the industry.
All children deserve quality early care and learning and all families should have access, regardless of income or where they live. The early childhood workforce deserves wages worthy of their education, skill, and commitment. To make these a reality, we must:
✅ Invest in early care and learning programs.
✅ Support career pathways in early care and learning.
✅ Create a dedicated funding stream.
Take action below: Contact your legislators today!
Why is early care and learning so important?
The first five years of a child’s life are crucial. The most significant brain development occurs during those years—meaning it’s the best time to lay the foundation for future success. Children who attend quality child care and early learning programs have better lifelong outcomes. Also, without child care and early learning programs, families will have to leave the workforce or place their children in unsafe situations. Children only get one chance for a strong start. Their future—our future—is worth it.
“By making early childhood education accessible to more families, these programs will increase labor force participation, particularly among women. They also represent an important investment in the development of the country’s future human capital and in the fight against poverty”.
UHERO Forecast for the State of Hawaiʻi, December 2021
Why isn’t Hawaiʻi’s child care system working?
We require that those providing care for our children have both the education and experience to do so. We want to keep those standards high, as high-quality early care and learning can improve a child’s life.
But families cannot shoulder the burden of paying the true costs of care. The average family of 4 spends around 26% of their income on child care for an infant and a 4-year-old in Hawaiʻi. To make costs feasible for families at all, child care providers’ only option is to lower wages. As a result, 16 percent of Hawaiʻi’s child care workforce lives in poverty compared to 10 percent of the general population.
This creates a vicious cycle. The early childhood workforce has shrunk as more professionals leave the field for higher paying jobs. In the last 10 years, we have seen a decrease in the number of programs and spaces. This results in our current situation: too many families needing early care and learning spaces and not enough options.
Who is caring for our keiki?
Dedicated and qualified early care and learning educators (ECE) are the backbone to our communities and economy. They support healthy development in children and help families get to work. Currently, we donʻt know how many ECEs are working in our child care programs. Relaxed data collection standards through the Early Childhood Workforce Registry has made it difficult to understand whatʻs happening at the local level.
Supporting the current and future workforce
Growing quality, affordable programs won’t happen without ensuring we have the workforce we need and our children deserve. Those in early care and learning have both the education and dedication to provide quality early learning programs to children.
But Hawaiʻi would need over 9,300 early childhood educators to support the number of children needing care, and 14,500 for all children between birth and age 5. We currently have less than 5,000.
We’re seeing more ECEs leave for higher paying jobs outside of early childhood and fewer people entering into the profession—which means fewer seats for children. Increasing compensation has been cited as the #1 way to increase retention and recruitment for ECEs in Hawaiʻi.
“Recruitment, development and retention of qualified child care staff remains problematic in most areas of the state. A major contributing factor is low compensation for teachers which deters interested and qualified individuals from entering or remaining in the child care profession. The high rate of turnover among child care staff negatively affects the consistency and quality of care provided to children.”
Department of Human Services Operating Budget, FY 2019-2021
Investing in the future now
Ensuring that all children and families have access to quality, affordable programs will only happen when we invest in the early childhood workforce and programs.