Joint Committee on Education Testimony in Support of H.489 and S.301

By Benjamin Siegel, MD

October 16, 2023

_____

Chair Lewis, Chair Garlick, and members of the Joint Committee on Education, my name is Ben Siegel, MD and I am pleased to offer testimony IN SUPPORT of H.489 and S.301: An Act providing affordable and accessible high quality early education and care to promote child development and well-being and support the economy in the Commonwealth. I am on the Board of Directors of Smart from the Start and a medical advisor to Higher Ground.  I have been on the faculty of Boston University since 1972 and practiced general pediatrics at Boston Medical Center for 48 years.

I wish to support both bills as critical to the health and well-being of children and their family members for the following reasons:

  1. Early quality childcare programs mitigate the impact of Toxic Stress in children and improve children’s health, brain development and overall wellbeing.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has documented this in important policy statements.
  1. AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS| POLICY STATEMENT| JANUARY 01 2012 Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician: Translating Developmental Science Into Lifelong Health
    1. FROM THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS| POLICY STATEMENT| AUGUST 01 2021

Preventing Childhood Toxic Stress: Partnering with Families and Communities to Promote Relational Health           

  • Early quality childcare programs impact future earnings of the children who benefit from these high quality programs with an 8-12% return on investment per annum, and significant improvements in economic and psychosocial status in the next generation 
  • When parents who wish to work, have access to high quality early childcare (0-3 and 0-5), their economic status and family well-being are improved.  This is especially true for women.
  • This legislation is a jobs program offering better salaries and benefits to early childcare workers.
  • States in the US do not have universal and partially subsidized early childcare programs.
    • First Five Year Fund: 2020 “Our analysis of all 50 states and Washington, D.C. shows that the existing patchwork of federal and state early learning and care programs only reaches a fraction of income-eligible families. Federal funding and programs benefit families in every state and Congressional district, and serve as the foundation for America’s entire childcare system — or lack thereof. And while these programs enjoy widespread bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, Congress has failed to meaningfully invest funding that would reach millions of children who are eligible to participate — much less the millions more whose families earn above the income threshold but still struggle to find and afford quality care options.”   https://www.ffyf.org/2022-state-fact-sheets/#factsheets
  • If this legislation passes, it will be the first state in the country to have such a program as the federal legislators voted this down in the “Build Back Better” legislation.
  • My personal clinical experience practicing pediatrics for 48 years to underserved and stressed parents at Boston City Hospital now Boston Medical center, demonstrated to me how children and families were supported and nurtured when they had access to high quality early childcare when they wanted and needed this support.

This is such important legislation that will have a major impact for children and parents in the Commonwealth and will be a model for the nation, just as universal health insurance and gay marriage have been models for our country. As legislators. I hope you lead the way.

Thank you for your consideration of my testimony. I ask that you report H.489 and S.301: An Act providing affordable and accessible high quality early education and care to promote child development and well-being and support the economy in the Commonwealth, out of committee favorably.

Ben Siegel, MD, FAAP

Benjamin Siegel, MD FAAP

Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry
Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
Retired Pediatrician, Boston Medical Center

Photo: Massachusetts Department of Early Education & Care

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