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Thrive2027 News: The Importance of Child Care to a Thriving Community

High-quality child care is essential for a vibrant, thriving community. It provides a powerful pathway to growing the human capital of a prosperous and sustainable community. It strengthens the workforce and local economy by allowing caregivers to work, go to school or receive training, and pay their bills. It also provides young children with experiences that support school readiness and nurtures their cognitive, social, and emotional growth.

By investing in early education and helping more adults access educational and professional opportunities, we can strengthen our child care system and give more kids a strong start and empower our neighbors to thrive – not just survive. 

Upcoming Thrive2027 Events:
Building Thriving Workplaces: Working Parents, Stronger Communities
May 13, 10 a.m.

The challenge of balancing work and home responsibilities is nothing new. However, across Maine, the permanent closures of child care centers, a lack of certified providers, and rising child care costs have dramatically impacted families and shifted the work landscape. With these growing challenges, investing in the “workforce behind the workforce” (child care providers) and supporting working or job-seeking parents and caregivers is crucial for stable employment. We all benefit when kids have a strong start and families thrive.

Hear local leaders in the fields of business and child care share their perspectives and discuss solutions to this issue.

Save the date and stay tuned for registration information!

Building Thriving Workplaces is a Thrive2027 webinar series presented by United Way of Southern Maine and the Portland Chamber of Commerce. The series brings together community leaders to share workplace best practices that will benefit your organization and advance Thrive2027.

Watch (or rewatch) Building Thriving Workplaces: Spotlight on Employee Mental Health.

Data Dive:

43% of Early Child Care Centers in Maine have a Waiting List for Open Slots
Goal 1 – Give kids a strong start
Goal 2 – Empower neighbors to thrive – not just survive

Waiting lists for affordable, high-quality child care centers can be hundreds of families and years long. Youth and Family Outreach (YFO), a non-profit early care center, recently told the Portland Press Herald that dozens of families knock on their door looking for help every week.

YFO prioritizes enrolling families living at or below the federal poverty line, born to teen parents, are unhoused, or from immigrant or refugee families. The skilled teachers at YFO nurture children with rich interactions, anti-racist practices, and high-quality early learning experiences. For children, experiences like these can have a lifelong impact.

The need for more high-quality early learning opportunities is vital to a thriving Southern Maine and the future of our economy. Last year, United Way of Southern Maine invested more than $500,000 in early education centers like YFO, programs, and collaborative quality early care work across Southern Maine to strengthen our community’s system of support and advance Goal 1.

UWSM also invests in professional development and entrepreneurship and recently received a $95,000 grant to help new child care entrepreneurs in the Portland area open their child care centers with the necessary training and investment to succeed. Read more about how UWSM helps give kids a strong start.


Building Thriving Communities:
Greater Portland Workforce Initiative

In addition to long waiting lists, early care providers face the challenge of recruiting and retaining skilled workers. 58% of child care centers in Maine are currently understaffed. Helping more individuals achieve their professional goals of becoming child care providers is an important step in creating a stronger child care system.

Greater Portland Workforce Initiative (GPWI) is dedicated to building strong career pathways and helping individuals achieve meaningful employment and financial stability through access to education and supportive services. GPWI’s Bridge to Child Development Associate (CDA) program helps aspiring early educators achieve their CDA so they can enter the workforce and earn a higher income. This year, GPWI received a grant to expand the Bridge program and support an entrepreneur child care program.


Take Action

Sign up for United Way of Southern Maine’s Legislative Updates to stay informed on bills and legislation related to Thrive2027 and hear about ways you can take action

Endorse Thrive2027
Help drive change and join the more than 300 organizations engaged with Thrive2027. The first step is simple: declare your support of our community’s vision by endorsing Thrive2027.

Your contribution to United Way of Southern Maine is an investment in change. Designate your next gift to the Early Care and After School Fund to help more children get a strong start.
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