There is no doubt amongst business leaders, elected officials, employers and employees that without child care, economic recovery will be virtually impossible. The harsh reality is that if child care centers don’t get financial relief soon, families will have even fewer options for care when they feel it is safe to send their children again. The number of families who need care now are not enough to sustain child care. And the child care businesses who do have savings to draw upon to stay open in the short term, may still close as the pandemic continues.
Child care businesses are struggling to stay open. The cost of care is higher than most working families can afford so childcare businesses are subsidizing that care at substantial losses. In March 2020 Kids Co. was providing care to 889 kids. As of today there are 63 kids enrolled. Kids Co. is experiencing a nearly 100% decrease in enrollment. Kids Co. is not alone. Dozens of programs in Seattle, are experiencing drastically low enrollment.
Child care during COVID-19 comes at a high price.
Child care is following all of the CDC and public health safety and health protocols – all of which come at a high price. Between smaller group sizes per room and physical distancing, programs cannot enroll kids to their child care license capacity. In many cases, the most a program can serve is 15 kids in a room. The additional cost of PPE along with the time it takes to find and buy PPE adds to the challenge of staying open. Child care teachers are burning out under the pressure of the constant cleaning and disinfecting of everything, while also overseeing and managing groups of kids.
Child care steps up to support schools with remote learning.
On top of all that child care programs are doing to provide safe care, many of us are also supporting distance learning. In Seattle, child care programs are accommodating the dozens of different school and class schedules, managing and troubleshooting IT issues, and helping kids with their school work. Furthermore, programs are serving special needs kids who aren’t receiving the support they should be getting (i.e., one-on-one aid that they’d normally have during in-person instruction) putting additional pressure on child care teachers who are not certificated special education teachers. For programs serving English Language Learner kids, the challenges become even greater. But because our hearts are in this for the kids and families, child care is doing everything we can to take care of our kids. We do this even though child care programs are not receiving any funding from Seattle Public Schools to provide this level of support for kids.
Just like grown ups, kids are impacted by COVID-19 too.
The impacts on life during COVID-19 are felt by us all. Kids feel the pain of loss, the financial pressures of their families, the hardships with distance learning, and the loneliness of isolation. Child care teachers are helping kids navigate all these experiences with care, patience and grace. Child care teachers are doing their best to give kids their childhoods back in the face of a pandemic.
Kids Co. and every other child care business wants to be the support and resource for families we’ve always been. Without significant investment from government and business, child care businesses will close. The question is when?
More resources about the impacts of COVID-19 on child care and economic recovery: