Child care

Worcester, MA
United States

Clark University

Collected 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 that have high concentrations of people of color, low Child Opportunity Index scores, and low access to critical early education and care (EEC) resources. The project, led by the Together for Kids Coalition (TFKC), sought 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. TFKC is 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.

Parents and other community members were important pillars of this project. TFKC worked with 10 families from the focus neighborhoods to build their data capacity and to make decisions about which data to collect, how to interpret the data, and how to apply the data to address EEC deserts. Families and service providers provided feedback on select EEC indicators to ensure these indicators were relevant and focused on equity.

TFKC staff conducted interviews with the 10 families to understand their experiences. After these interviews, students from Clark University collected quantitative data that visualize the inequity of EEC access and created a series of posters integrating their research with the qualitative data findings. TFKC staff discussed these posters with the families to get their feedback and interpretation and updated the posters based on these conversations. The updated posters were presented at a data walk, which staff organized to accommodate both English- and Spanish-speaking families and providers. TFKC staff also shared the findings at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Child Health Equity Summit. Findings from the project will be shared at a public summit this summer with policymakers, researchers, EEC providers, city officials, agencies, and families.

The data walks highlighted the need for decisionmakers to build consensus and identify shared priorities in order to create a plan to improve equity in early childcare access in Worcester. TFKC staff plan to advocate for the implementation of this plan in conversations with local policymakers.