It’s no secret that Alaska is having a child care crisis.
For the past two years thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource & Referral Network, in partnership with the State of Alaska Child Care Program Office (CCPO), has been distributing federal funding to stabilize the child care sector after the impacts of the pandemic. As those stabilization efforts near the end, thread is pivoting to focus on the future of child care.
Before, during, and after the pandemic, families across Alaska have struggled to find quality child care for their young children. More than 61% of Alaskans live in a child care desert, an area with more than 50 children age 5 and under with little to no child care. This makes going to work difficult or out of reach for many Alaskans, and has a direct economic impact. According to a 2021 US Chamber of Commerce Foundation report, Alaska loses on average $165 million annually due to child care disparities and breakdowns, underscoring the urgency of the child care crisis.
The most pressing needs are around increasing the number of available seats statewide, capital needs for facilities, and building and supporting the early childhood workforce.
To give time and space to these issues, thread will kick off 2023 with a convening of early childhood stakeholders, business and community leaders, and philanthropic partners. The statewide group will be invited to think big about how to solve Alaska’s child care crisis by working together. This exploratory convening is essential and will be funded in partnership with the Rasmuson Foundation and the State of Alaska.
“We know high-quality child care works,” says Stephanie Berglund, CEO of thread. “When affordable, high-quality child care is available, families are able to work, children are more prepared for school, and our businesses and communities thrive. As we’ve seen in other states, it takes public and private partnership together with bold ideas and new investments to make this happen successfully, which is what thread will be focusing on next year.”
The Early Childhood Alaska Strategic Direction created by the State in 2020, will serve as a guide for the work ahead. The 2023 convening will focus on increasing access to child care and building the future early childhood workforce to inform an implementation plan based on big ideas, successful national and local models, community readiness across the state, and new funding models.
To follow along or join in, watch thread’s website for more information soon.