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Right after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, early childhood education (ECE) advocates were dealing with the immediate crisis and, simultaneously, talking about what the global health crisis would mean for the future.

“We wanted to create a space for that conversation,” Albert Wat, a senior policy director at the Alliance for Early Success, said on a recent Strategies for Children Zoom call.

“We met almost weekly for four months,” Wat says of the 13 states and eight national organizations who joined the conversation. Strategies for Children, an Alliance grantee, represented Massachusetts. “We didn’t want to limit ourselves to current fiscal and policy constraints.”

Instead the group talked about a “North star,” an untethered vision of what the country could do to rebuild child care.

“We wanted to be bold, but we also wanted to be pragmatic,” Wat said.

The result is “Build Stronger: A Child Care Policy Roadmap for Transforming Our Nation’s Child Care System.” (more…)

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How hard has COVID-19 hit child care providers?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation decided to ask them.

The chamber interviewed 18 providers – “from large, for-profit centers to local nonprofit organizations to home-based providers” — about the impact of the pandemic and about the future.

Providers’ answers are in a new report, “Childcare: An Essential Industry for Economic Recovery,” which is part of the chamber’s ongoing analysis of early education and child care and their impact on the economy.

The report points to three common challenges:

• meeting needs while balancing costs

Providers “are dedicated to providing childcare services. However, decreased enrollment and increased costs have left most providers, both for-profit and nonprofit, in an unsustainable financial situation.”

• managing health risks

“The top priority for providers is understanding how to safely care for young children, understanding that a COVID-19 diagnosis is seemingly inevitable in several geographies, even with the utmost precautions.”

• addressing the interconnected nature of child care

“Childcare is closely tied to — and affected by — how parents return to work and how students return to school. However, many childcare providers are not being included in key discussions with their local school districts or business communities.” (more…)

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“We build infrastructure like roads, bridges and communications systems so that people can work. That infrastructure helps us all because it keeps our economy going. It’s time to recognize that child care is part of the basic infrastructure of this nation—it’s infrastructure for families.”

 

Elizabeth Warren’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, August 19, 2020

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Two national surveys on life during the pandemic are painting pictures of how parents and child care providers are coping.

One initial survey comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has “launched a new longitudinal study to understand how lack of childcare is affecting working parents” whose children are younger than six, a survey report explains.

The chamber has divided its findings into two categories: “(1) Common Experience, and (2) Childcare Equation and Returning to Work.”

Two of the “common experiences:” more parents are working remotely, and more children are staying at home – although race and class skew these findings. Remote work, for example, is “more commonly afforded to high-income (73%) and white (54%) parents. Comparatively, only 24% of low-income parents, 40% of Black parents, and 34% of Hispanic or Latino parents are working remotely.”

In the second category of findings — “Childcare Equation and Returning to Work” – the chamber has found substantial challenges.

Long before COVID-19, parents created their “Childcare Equation,” the report says, deciding how much child care they needed. Now, in the middle of the pandemic, “parents have been forced to drastically adjust their equation.” Parents have set up short-term, “unsustainable childcare arrangements,” and they wonder “if they will be able to return to work at all.” (more…)

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July 29, 2020

Dear Members of our Congressional Delegation:

Thank you for your efforts to support the needs of the Commonwealth’s residents as we continue to confront the myriad challenges caused by the pandemic.

We write today in appreciation of your demonstrated commitment to early education and care and to request that you each do everything within your power to ensure that the final relief bill currently being debated in Congress includes $50 billion in specific, dedicated funding necessary to stabilize our vital field.

The momentum behind the child care sector—both around the country and within the halls of the Capitol—has been gaining for weeks. Finally, the people and their representatives are realizing what we have all known for years: the child care sector is the backbone of our economy, providing education and care for our children while also facilitating parent reentry into the workforce.

Operating on razor-thin margins even before the pandemic, center-based, family child care, and afterschool providers in the Commonwealth are now facing even greater and longer-lasting challenges. The sector is being decimated by pandemic-required reduced capacity and increased cleaning and PPE costs. Cutbacks in services to families and widespread layoffs of staff are also adversely impacting our economic recovery. Worse yet, the damage to the workforce has a disparate impact on women and especially women of color who overwhelmingly serve in this critical, but underappreciated and underpaid role.

Many Massachusetts providers have already shuttered their doors, while the rest are cutting into whatever limited reserves they may have had and are headed for the same outcome. In a new report issued by NAEYC this month, average enrollment is down by 67% across the country and without an infusion of funding, 50% of all programs will be closed by December and only 18% will make it through a year. (more…)

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“In a vote Wednesday night, the House passed the Child Care Is Essential Act on a bipartisan basis, 249-163. The legislation creates a $50 billion fund to provide grants to help pay for personnel, sanitation, training and other costs associated with reopening and running a child-care facility amid the pandemic.”

“The House also passed on a bipartisan basis the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act, which is designed to provide funding to help child-care providers reopen and improve the safety of care facilities going forward.”

“ ‘We cannot assume that business can go on as usual if we don’t meet the needs of working parents,’ Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said during a press conference Wednesday. When reporters started to ask questions pertaining to other news items, Sanchez interrupted to ask that they stick to the topic of child care. ‘I get so tired of everyone wanting to talk about deals and red lining and not talk about what’s relevant to the majority of families in this country,’ she said.”

 

“House passes set of bills that give child care industry a more than $60 billion bailout,” by Megan Leonhardt, CNBC.com, July 29, 2020

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Report screenshot

 

Even before they are born children face systemic inequalities.

A new report digs into this national problem.

“More than half of the 74 million children in the United States are children of color, and they are served by learning systems that are gravely inequitable. The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the health, economic wellbeing, and education of young children, only exacerbate existing inequalities,” according to the report, “Start with Equity: From the Early Years to the Early Grades.”

Released by The Children’s Equity Project, at Arizona State University, and the Bipartisan Policy Center, the report is, according to its website, “an actionable policy roadmap for states and the federal government—as well as for candidates at all levels of government vying for office—to take meaningful steps to remedy these inequities in early learning and education systems.”

These themes are also explored in a related webinar series. Links to recordings of the first two webinars, which took place earlier this month, are available on the report website. The next two webinars will be on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, and Thursday, August 6, 2020.

The report and webinars draw on two meetings of “more than 70 experts from universities, think tanks and organizations.” These experts focused on three policy areas where inequities persist: (more…)

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“ ‘The childcare crisis is not new. The need for paid family and medical leave is not new. The need for protections for caregivers and for parents and for pregnant workers is not new. It shouldn’t take a global pandemic to raise awareness about these issues,’ says Sarah Brafman, Senior Policy Counsel at A Better Balance, which advocates for policies to help working families. ‘But we have a moment where we do have a global crisis, and this is an opportunity to address the failings of our past.’ ”

“Indeed, childcare is an issue that, while crucial for families, should be important to anyone who wants to see the American economy made whole again. ‘If they really want to help people get back to work, they have to figure out how to safely create spaces where children can stay,’ says Emily James, an English teacher at a Brooklyn, New York high school. James lives in the Bronx with her husband and daughters, ages 5 and 7. Prior to the pandemic, James says, her husband worked nights, starting at 4 a.m. ‘We basically just switched off because we had opposite schedules — we would tag off, dump them off to each other. Or we would have a babysitter for an hour or so in between, if we could.‘ These days, they’re both home, because he’s on leave due to a health condition, but that hasn’t made balancing work with caring for the kids any easier. ‘From 8:00 in the morning until 1:00 p.m., my kids would be next to me while I was teaching my students.’ ”

 

“Coronavirus Has Finally Put A Spotlight On America’s Childcare Crisis. What Happens Now?” by Cait Munro, Refinery29, July 15, 2020

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Welcome to the pandemic version of Grade Level Reading Week 2020.

“GLR WEEK 2020 has been transformed into series of events and activities featuring the work, priorities and progress of two dozen states and communities in the GLR Network,” the Campaign for Grade Level Reading explains on its website.

And it’s all online.

Among the online webinars are:

Reaching and Supporting Parents Through 211
A Fishbowl Conversation for United Ways with Leaders in Delaware, Texas, and Utah
Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 12:30 p.m. ET

The Role of Shared Services and Staffed Family Childcare Networks
A Fishbowl Conversation with Leaders in Colorado, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Oregon
Thursday, July 16, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET

Measuring & Addressing Learning Loss with Innovative Diagnostic Tools
California & South Carolina Respond
Friday, July 17, 2020, 3 p.m. ET

To register for these events, click here.

Check out this interactive map to learn about other related virtual events around the country.

And finally, please tweet about the event using the hashtag #GLRWeek.

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“At the family child care center she runs out of her Dorchester home, Dottie Williams has started asking parents to send teddy bears along with their kids.

“Ms. Dottie’s NeighborSchool serves children between five months and four years old, an age range for which Williams said touch is an important way of bonding. To translate the ritual of a hug to the COVID-19 era, she now asks the kids to hug their own teddy bear while she hugs hers.

“ ‘Children are very, very creative, and when you’re creative with them, they can adjust,’ Williams told lawmakers Tuesday.

“As advocates and child care providers continue to call for an infusion of public funds to help the industry cope with added costs and lost revenue associated with providing care during a pandemic, stuffed animal-facilitated hugs are among several short-term adjustments speakers highlighted during the Education Committee’s virtual oversight hearing.”

 

“COVID-19 forcing innovation at child care centers: Ripple effects linger as key industry is strained,” by Katie Lannan, State House News Service story in The Salem News, Jul 7, 2020

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“The critical role that childcare plays in society has never been more apparent. But as decisions get made about reopening guidelines and adult-child ratios, are we forgetting the rights of children and of those who care for them? (more…)

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