Adam McPhail, Contributing Photographer

Every day, Claire Feldman-Reich drops her two toddlers off at the Yale New Haven Hospital Day Care Center, George Street Campus. For her, the daycare offers crucial support while she is at work. 

At two separate campuses, the YNHH Day Care Center serves over 100 children from 3 months to 5 years of age. The center operates from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., accommodating hospital workers’ demanding schedules. While all members of the New Haven community can enroll children in the daycare, priority is given to workers at the Yale hospitals and the medical school community. 

“Being able to feel safe leaving my kids somewhere was really powerful,” Feldman-Reich said. “And I always felt comfortable leaving my kids.” 

But on Jan. 18, citing high costs, YNHH leadership told daycare parents over a Zoom call that the center would enter a partnership with Bright Horizons, a national organization that provides childcare services. They offered little information to parents about what that transition would mean for their children. 

Without advance warning, daycare educators were told to reapply for their current positions. In response, many employees have since left, leaving the center short-staffed and at risk of state closure. 

According to the Economic Policy Institute, Connecticut has the fifth-highest infant care cost in America. The News spoke with 12 parents whose children attend the daycare, seven of whom requested anonymity over concerns of employer retribution. They noted that the center, which is subsidized by YNHH, costs half of what other local comparable daycares charge. The center also offers a large discount for families who are looking to enroll another child. 

Feldman-Reich is a special education teacher at a therapeutic day school in Connecticut and is married to a YNHH employee. For her, the YNHH daycare’s low costs are critical.  

“The daycare is the only reason I’m gainfully employed,” Feldman-Reich said. “The other daycares cost my salary.”

The parents also highlighted the daycare educators’ decades of experience: Many of the educators started their careers at the daycare and are now reaching the age of retirement, still working at the YNHH facility.

Now, with the daycare’s educators forced to reapply for their own positions, their future at the facility may be in jeopardy, parents noted.

Cutting costs

On Jan. 18, 2024, Jodie Boldrighini, the vice president of human resources at YNHH, alongside other hospital leaders, held YNHH’s first parent advisory meeting of the year. Like many other parents, Jon West ’20 DRA, whose daughter is enrolled at the daycare, skipped the regularly scheduled meeting, assuming it wasn’t important. 

“It was just seen as the regular kind of parents advisory meeting that happens every month. The agenda items were vague enough that almost no one got on the call,” West said.

Parents who did log on were faced with a surprising announcement. 

The News spoke with a medical researcher at YNHH with children in the daycare who attended the call. She said that Boldrighini told them that the hospital was losing money on the daycare and had been looking for ways to cut costs. As a result, she recalled, Boldrighini announced that the hospital had zeroed in on no longer managing the daycare.

After large losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yale New Haven Health system budgeted for a $250 million deficit for fiscal year 2023.

According to Deborah Greig, an educator in New Haven who has two children at the daycare, the YNHH program was never meant to be a profitable business, but rather “a benefit for the healthcare community at Yale.” 

During the meeting, Boldrighini and others revealed that multiple outside vendors had been given tours of the daycare throughout late 2023, without informing parents. YNHH leadership ultimately decided that the facility would enter into a new “partnership” with Bright Horizons. 

Though parents in attendance asked for more details, the attendees said that Boldrighini was unclear and did not elaborate on the consequences of the partnership’s implications. 

Parents then asked Boldrighini and others to host a town hall before the process was finalized, though Boldrighini said that she plans to wait to organize the town hall until they had more information. Greig said this lack of a public forum would “give them no voice in this process.” 

On Jan. 22, 95 parents signed and wrote an open letter to YNHH leadership, the Board of Trustees, Human Resources and daycare leadership requesting immediate transparency about how the transition would impact current parents, children and employees at the daycare. The letter also called for administrators to outline a plan to retain current staff members.

In the letter, parents also re-emphasized their request for a town hall, specifically with YNHH leaders Jodie Boldrighini and Melissa Turner, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at YNHH. 

In response, on Jan. 24, Turner sent an email to the daycare parents. In the email, which was shared with the News, she reiterated that YNHH had not yet solidified its plans for the partnership and said that they would host future forums during which they would share updates about the transition when plans are complete. 

“YNHH is not selling its daycare business. We are, however, pursuing a strategic partnership with Bright Horizons,” Turner wrote. 

YNHH declined to comment to the News’ request for comment in time for publication.

“A big surprise”

On the same day, Boldrighini and Turner organized a staff meeting with daycare educators, during which they informed them that they would have to be reinterviewed and then reapply for their current positions. 

During the rehiring process, Boldrighini and Turner said, the staff members would lose their YNHH benefits and paid time off and were further advised to “prepare their resumes.” 

The News spoke with a current daycare educator who has worked at the center for more than two decades. She says that during her career working with YNHH in the daycare industry, she had never encountered a similar situation.

“I’ve never had problems like this, it took us for a big surprise. Still, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

The educator, who has worked in daycares since she was 14 years old, shared sentiments similar to those of many affected parents. She told the News that she was frustrated by YNHH’s lack of transparency to employees who have devoted their careers to the Center. 

“I do it because I love kids — that’s my passion,” she said. “I could care less if they said that I’d get paid $25 an hour or get paid $10 an hour or whatever the case may be. But what I’m not okay with is that we’ve been in there for so long and for us to reapply. Why would I do my resume all over?” 

Boldrighini and Turner also instructed the daycare educators not to discuss the new “partnership” with parents. According to multiple parents and staff members, YNHH leadership threatened to fire daycare educators if they discussed the development with parents.

The next day, on Jan. 25, daycare parents wrote another letter, obtained by the News, to the YNHH administration, which stated that their concerns for daycare staff retention and their wellbeing had been dismissed. The letter argued that if staff members continued to leave, the daycare could be forced to shut down. 

Connecticut state law requires daycares to have a minimum of one educator for every 10 preschool-aged children, and one educator for every four children under age 3.  

“The daycare staff’s lack of confidence in their ability to maintain their jobs and benefits has a direct and immediate impact on our childcare and our roles as employees of this organization,” the letter stated. “There have already been multiple teachers who have left, including two from George Street just this past week. If this trend continues the daycare is in jeopardy of closing due to inability to meet government mandated ratios.” 

Greig, like many other parents who spoke with the News, said that her biggest fear was that one day, the daycare would call parents to pick up their children because the facility had dipped below the state-mandated ratios. 

Greig’s fears were not unfounded. On Feb. 7, center leaders gave parents flyers informing them that some of the daycare’s infant rooms would be combined. West told the News that each classroom previously had three teachers for every six to seven kids. Now, there are two to three teachers for every eight kids. 

Parents also described how the facility’s receptionist and the daycare supervisors were also taking on educator roles to meet the state educator-to-student threshold. Another parent, a YNHH employee who requested anonymity due to concerns about retaliation from YNHH, also said their child was unable to move up to the next age group because the daycare faced a shortage of educators for older kids. 

The developments were a surprising twist for West, who said that the center’s low student-to-teacher ratio was one of the main reasons why he and his family chose YNHH as their daycare provider. 

“Where does that leave me?”

Amid this uncertainty, many parents emphasized the need for stability and shared that the closing could have severe consequences for their livelihoods.

“If one of us has to take a step back from work in order to care for our child, it will be me, just because I make less money,” said a nurse practitioner at the hospital, whom the News granted anonymity also due to concerns of employer retaliation.  

Alongside other parents, Feld-Reichman contended that the Center’s closing would disproportionately affect women, who may have to take leaves of absence to care for their children. Most educators who have been long-term employees at the center are also women of color. 

If the YNHH facility were to shut down, parents highlighted that most local daycares have waitlists over a year long, leaving them with no alternative for childcare.

“I’ve called a couple of daycares in our area, and they kind of laughed at me,” said a healthcare practitioner at YNHH. “I was told that my child could be put on a waitlist for August. So where does that leave me? And my ability to continue to work for Yale New Haven Hospital?”

Parents also noted that Turner and Boldrighini have yet to host a town hall, despite parents’ continued requests. Instead, Turner has called individual parents to reassure them that — contrary to what educators have been repeatedly told  — they would keep their benefits during the transition to the Bright Horizons partnership. 

On Jan. 31, parents of the daycare started a petition demanding transparency from YNHH leaders. 

As of Feb. 11, the petition has 493 signatures. 

Erin Hu contributed reporting.

Correction, Feb. 12: This article previously noted that staff members were told they would lose “Yale benefits” — however, this should have said “YNHH benefits” as YNHH is a separate entity from the University. This article has been updated accordingly.

Asuka Koda covers the Yale School of Medicine and the Yale School of Public Health. From New York City, she is a first-year in Davenport majoring in Mathematics and Philosophy.