Cornell partnership to bolster child care in the community

Cornell is launching a new effort to support community-based child care providers by contributing $300,000 a year for up to five years to assist individuals and organizations looking to start or expand a full-time child care program in Tompkins County.

The Community Child Care Supply Growth Initiative will be managed through a partnership with the Child Development Council, a nonprofit organization that has been serving Tompkins and Cortland counties for more than 50 years.

Much of Tompkins County has been deemed a “child care desert,” with more than three times as many children for every available, licensed child care slot. Research has shown that a scarcity of sufficient child care service hampers the regional economy, the labor force and equity, with working women disproportionately affected.

“Expanding access to affordable child care is a national imperative and essential to the continued success of Cornell, our community and our local economy,” Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff said. “As the largest employer in the county, we recognize the importance of having a healthy and accessible child care system. As we develop short- and long-term child care strategies, making this funding available to area providers is an important step toward addressing supply challenges in our community.”

In addition to the $300,000, Cornell will also be investing $72,000 a year to support a child care developer position with the Council, which will manage the fund.

With this staffing, the Council will strengthen efforts to grow child care supply by vetting potential providers and guiding candidates in developing a business plan, readying their facilities, becoming licensed and trained, and obtaining materials and software for business management. It will also help providers run effective and sustainable operations.

Eligibility criteria and application materials are currently being developed by the Council in partnership with Cornell and are expected to be available later in the fall.     

Since it was founded in 1967, the Council has promoted the healthy development of children and families in the community by providing resources, support services and education, and has advocated on child development and child care issues through interagency coordination, collaboration and planning.

“A healthy supply of regulated child care is critical to the well-being of families with young children and for a thriving community and economy,” said Melissa Perry, CEO of the Council. “We have implemented many initiatives designed to increase the supply of care in the community, though because of restrictions on funding, a key component has been missing – financial support for new providers. With this new partnership, the Council will be able to fund start-up costs for new and expanding child care programs alongside individualized business coaching to help providers develop and sustain high-quality care programs.”

“Navigating child care can be an incredibly stressful experience for Cornell families,” said Christine Lovely, vice president and chief human resources officer. “In addition to Cornell’s family life benefits and services, it’s important that faculty, staff and students have care options in the community that are accessible and align to their work/life needs. As such, I’m excited this funding will support the growth of multiple regulated care types in our community – center, family and group family providers.”

The new funding is in addition to Cornell’s previous two-year commitment to give the Council $140,000 through November 2023.

The initiative – which will initially focus on Tompkins County – will be similar to the Community Housing Development Fund, a joint effort between Cornell, the county and the city of Ithaca, that is designed to help communities and organizations throughout Tompkins County meet residents’ affordable-housing needs.

Cornell’s annual investment will continue for up to five years, with the program and development services evolving as provider needs are evaluated. Michelle Artibee, director of workforce wellbeing in the Division of Human Resources, is representing Cornell in the partnership with the Council and developing other approaches to increase supply.

For example, the Cornell Child Care Center, managed by Bright Horizons, is heavily subsidized by the university and currently has 180 enrolled children with an average wait list of 120 children, Artibee said.

“Combined with other available data, it’s clear the faculty, staff and student demand for care is high,” she said. “In addition to our support of the center and this new initiative, we are exploring other partnerships to leverage public and private funding sources to grow care supply. Care quality is of upmost importance when honing the university’s strategy, as well as speed of access, financial stability of the program and other accessibility needs of our faculty, staff and students.”

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli