In April 2023, a pivotal moment unfolded in North Central Massachusetts. The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, including employers, business associations, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, and students from the MIT Sloan School. Their mission was ambitious and urgent: to create a sustainable financial model that would ensure affordable, accessible, and high-quality childcare for working families. This collaborative effort gave birth to the North Central Massachusetts Employer-Supported Childcare Project.

The driving force behind this initiative was the Community Foundation's deep concern over the skyrocketing cost of living and the critical shortage of childcare options. As the world emerged from the shadows of the COVID-19 crisis, the exorbitant costs and lack of supply of quality childcare remained a formidable barrier for low- and moderate-income families in North Central Massachusetts, forcing many parents to stay out of the labor market or forgo careers providing family-supporting wages. 

At the heart of this project lies a simple idea: the childcare economy's core issue is inadequate funding. By pooling resources from employers, employees, and public funds, the Coalition aims to revolutionize the childcare sector. The initiative seeks to determine whether local employers are willing to invest in childcare as a business imperative and if state and federal policymakers will support a regional funding pilot.

Throughout 2023, the Coalition, aided by the graduate students from MIT, delved into understanding the local childcare crisis and exploring viable solutions. Their efforts received a significant boost in January 2024, when the Central Massachusetts Health Foundation awarded the Coalition a Synergy Initiative Planning Grant. This grant enabled the Coalition to hire skilled professionals and expand its research and outreach capabilities. Today, the Coalition boasts a growing alliance of twenty-one local stakeholder organizations.

The Community Foundation, serving as the fiscal sponsor and chair of the Coalition, alongside the United Way for North Central Massachusetts as vice-chair, provides the organizational backbone for this initiative. In the coming months, the Coalition team will rigorously analyze the local childcare supply and demand dynamics and develop strategies to distribute the costs of expanding childcare services.

The vision for 2025 is bold: launching a pilot project to test the practical aspects of this new funding system and validate the initiative's core assumptions. If successful, this pilot could pave the way for a larger regional implementation, potentially transforming the childcare landscape in North Central Massachusetts.

The North Central Massachusetts Coalition for Employer-Supported Childcare stands as a beacon of hope and innovation. By harnessing the collective power of community stakeholders, this initiative aims to ensure that every working family has access to the quality childcare they need to thrive.

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