BOSTON (SHNS) – With Beacon Hill poised to address the dual challenges of access and costs of early childhood education and care this session, advocates on Thursday launched a new website that aims to give lawmakers, parents and others a better view of the constellation of services and supports for children ages 5 and younger.

The Rennie Center for Education and Research Policy and the Massachusetts Early Childhood Funder Collaborative unveiled Early Childhood 101, an interactive website that maps out all the various ways in which young kids and parents interact with programs and services like health care, housing support, employment assistance and more. The goal is to “help a larger audience understand where and how to support Massachusetts’ youngest children” and “move the needle for further investment and political focus on coordinating and improving the early childhood ‘non-system.’ “

“There’s just some things you can only learn by being a parent. And one of those things is how necessary, and how complicated and challenging, child care is. Now, we all know that the first few years of a child’s life significantly shapes the foundation for their future. Yet far too many families struggle to find the resources to provide quality education and care for our youngest residents,” Rep. Adrian Madaro of East Boston said during the virtual launch event. “Now, part of the problem is that resources are really fractured and complex. And it can be extremely difficult for policymakers, never mind parents, to fully understand the early child care field and what’s available. So knitting together the different systems at play is really critical to ensure that not only the basic needs of families with young children are met, but that those kids also thrive.”

Last session, Madaro was among the chief sponsors of legislation backed by the Common Start Coalition, which backs a transition to universal early education and care. The bill Madaro filed with Rep. Ken Gordon and Sens. Jason Lewis and Su Moran would have put Massachusetts on a course toward a system of universal early education and child care for all Massachusetts families over a five-year implementation timeline. The bill was redrafted by the Education Committee and never re-emerged after being sent to the House Ways and Means Committee last May.

“This session, we’ll be back at it again,” Madaro said Thursday, a day before the bill-filing deadline.

report released last year by the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission estimated that $1.5 billion in investments are needed to stabilize the early education and care system and help it meet the needs of families. Lawmakers steered a total of $500 million in new funding toward the sector via the annual state budget and supplemental spending bills during the last session, mostly in the form of Commonwealth Cares for Children grants that allowed providers to increase staff pay.

The importance and vulnerabilities of the early education and care field came into sharp focus when the pandemic closed schools and child care centers, upending the work routines of many parents. Early education and child care appears primed to be a major focus of investment and attention in the young legislative session with Gov. Maura Healey, House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka all on board.

Healey singled out the issue as a priority in her inaugural speech, calling for state government to “pledge to be the first state to solve the child care crisis” and referencing a version of the Common Start proposal that she endorsed during her campaign, which would eliminate child care costs for the lowest-income families, limit those costs to no more than 7 percent of income for other families, and increase early educator pay.

“Let’s finally pass legislation in line with Common Start to make sure every family pays what they can afford and that care workers are paid what they deserve,” she said. “This is something our families, workers and businesses all agree on.”

Mariano said during his own session-opening speech that “the full attention of the House will be directed at examining ways to further support our vital early education and care workforce” during this session.

Talking to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce about expanding access to and improving the quality of early childhood education and care, Mariano last spring made a specific request of business leaders.

“I’m calling on businesses across the commonwealth to come together and present the House with a proposal for debate in the next legislative session to require companies of a certain size to provide child care resources to your employees,” Mariano said in May. Though he acknowledged that “this isn’t a complete fix,” the speaker added, “The time is now for business leaders to join with the Legislature and help solve this issue once and for all.”

And Spilka, whose chamber unanimously approved a bill last July (which went unfinished by the end of the session) seeking a years-long expansion of subsidies, increased pay and benefits for workers, and permanent grants to stabilize providers, also pointed to early childhood care as one of her priorities this session.

“We know how important early education and care is, both to addressing the ‘she-cession’ that worsened during the pandemic and in preparing our children to learn. Simply put, it is past time to update the way we imagine and support this crucial sector,” the Senate president said.

Referencing the so-called Big Three’s statements of support for significant action on early childhood education and care, Madaro said Thursday that “there is no doubt in my mind that we have momentum on our side.”