STATEMENT BY ATUL VARMA, CHAIRMAN OF BTWIC BOARD OF TRUSTEES
JULY 25, 2016
Last Friday, July 22, The Board of Trustees of the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children voted unanimously to close the 14-year-old non-profit, a small research, engagement, and policy organization that has prided itself as the “voice of the voiceless” for low-income families desiring and deserving high-quality early education and care for their children.
The board’s difficult decision grew out of an increasingly competitive funding environment, the sustainability of the organization’s business model and the planned departure of its President and CEO and Senior Researcher by the first of August. The timing of the decision was driven by the increasingly difficult fundraising environment and the viability of continuing to operate for another year. In addition, the organization has nearly completed all the work it was funded for in FY16. While the organization will cease operations, we are confident BTWIC’s ground-breaking research and programs will live on through the support of providers, policy advocates and public officials committed to high-quality early education and care for children in Boston and throughout Massachusetts.
Launched in 2002, BTWIC was dedicated to furthering the work of Bessie Tartt Wilson, who in 1946 became the first woman of color to open a day care center in Roxbury when she launched Tartt’s Day Care Center, which continues to be run by her grandchildren today.
The leading-edge work done by BTWIC over the years included:
- Creating, and in collaboration with the City of Boston, Tech Goes Home and UMass Boston, a yearlong Early Education and Care Small Business Innovation Center, at Madison Park High School for Roxbury early education entrepreneurs.
- Founding Put MA Kids First, a 76-member collaborative to strengthen the early education and out-of-school-time care workforce.
- Launching Eating to Learn to reduce obstacles to provider participation in the federally funded Child and Adult Care Food Program.
- A series of ground-breaking studies that shed new light on the compensation, career ladder and student loan debt of the early education workforce; the under-use of the Massachusetts child care voucher; and alternative funding resources to help families pay for early education and care.
At the meeting board member Ken Reed, Tartt’s grandson, whose mother, Mary Reed, served as the organization’s long-time president after launching BTWIC in her mother’s memory stated that “though small, the BTWIC has spoken loudly in support of early education professionals and the vital role they play in child care and early education, particularly in low-income communities.” He added, “while this was a hard decision to make, it was the right time to draw BTWIC to a close.”
The board joins Mary Reed and Marie St. Fleur in praising the work of BTWIC’s small staff and its many partners – from funders to researchers to educators to providers – who offered critical support to BTWIC’s mission to conduct independent and operational research that identified deficiencies in the Massachusetts early education and care system. Collectively, their efforts helped implement solutions to ensure that underserved children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
The effective of date of closure is before the end of the third quarter. Efforts are currently underway to secure archival space for the work and research reports of BTWIC since the organization was founded in 2002.