Collecting data on early education and care to map care deserts, understand their driving factors, and develop policy recommendations to address inequities.
The legacy of structural racism in Worcester, Massachusetts has created neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color, low Child Opportunity Index scores, and low access to critical early education and care (EEC) resources. The project seeks to better understand what drives EEC deserts in the Bell Hill, Main South, and Vernon Hill neighborhoods; the experiences of parents attempting to access these resources; and the systemic barriers to providing EEC in these neighborhoods. The Together for Kids Coalition (TFKC)—a support and advocacy organization for early childhood, chaired by Edward Street, with more than 20 years of experience in community engagement and child and family well-being in Worcester—will lead this work.
Parents and other community members will be a key pillar of this project. TFKC will work with up to 30 families from the focus neighborhoods, building their data capacity and involving them in decision-making about which data to collect, how to interpret the data, and how to apply the data to address EEC deserts. Families and service providers will provide feedback on select EEC indicators to ensure their relevance and a focus on equity, and TFKC staff will conduct interviews with families to understand their experiences. With these collected data, the coalition will create a data dashboard, conduct neighborhood-based data walks, and develop a community-based policy agenda.
The project will culminate in a final public summit with policymakers, researchers, EEC providers, city officials, agencies, and families, and the final dashboard will help set a policy and investment agenda for Worcester. The Worcester Research Bureau will include the dashboard in its community almanac, and the Worcester Governance Council for Children, Youth, and Families will also use the tool to adopt and monitor the city’s policy and investment agenda.