Horizons for Homeless Children is a unique program in the early education and care system in Massachusetts. We provide full-time, fully-subsidized early education to over 200 homeless infants, toddlers and preschoolers and their families who live in the Greater Boston Area.
Despite our successes in providing quality care, Horizons can serve only a small percentage of the young children experiencing homelessness in our state. A comprehensive, statewide approach to better funding early education and care is needed to support families and children struggling with housing instability across the Commonwealth.
Research has long demonstrated that high-quality early education and care has large benefits for high-risk children, including those from families experiencing poverty and housing instability. Long-term assessments from the University of Chicago, for example, find that benefits to society that result from putting vulnerable children through high-quality programs exceed the costs of these programs by a factor of seven to one.
Despite these clear benefits, a lack of public investment leaves families to face extremely high prices. The costs of early education and care in Massachusetts are, according to the Center for American Progress, the highest of any state in the nation, with average prices for infants exceeding $21,000 yearly and preschool averaging nearly $16,000. Research from the Economic Policy Institute suggests that only 5.4% of Massachusetts families can afford infant care without exceeding the Department of Health and Human Services standard that recommends paying no more than 7 percent of household income on care. Such burdens fall most heavily on families with lower incomes.
Even with high tuition rates, early education and care providers often still struggle to generate enough revenue to pay their educators well. Center directors consider low wages and benefits to be the leading reason providers often cannot maintain needed staffing levels. Focusing on teachers themselves, a recent pre-COVID survey of Massachusetts early educators found that fully 67% of center-based early educators reported worrying about being able to pay their bills, and 41% worried about having enough to eat.