Cheryl Odom runs a home-based family child care program in Columbus, Ohio, that had to close for more than two months as part of the effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.1 As of July 7, the program was operating for just three days of the week and serving four children at a time, rather than the usual six. A recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the county delayed Odom’s plan to resume providing care five days a week.
With day-care centers shuttered or severely restricting enrollment, and school districts opting for remote learning, many women are finding they just can’t make their jobs work during the pandemic. That could have lasting consequences.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced a sweeping new $775 billion investment in caregiving programs on Tuesday, with a series of proposals covering care for small children, older adults and family members with disabilities.
While the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on public schools (and the families that send their kids there) has dominated news cycles recently, the programs that care for preschool-aged children also face a very uncertain future.
Nearly a third of the nation’s workforce has children at home, and they’re struggling. Researchers estimate nearly 10 percent of economic activity won’t happen as long as schools and day cares remain closed.
The child care center sector in the United States was already on precarious grounds — prohibitively expensive for many families, despite operating on thin financial margins, while paying most workers less than $11 an hour.
There is near-universal consensus that early-childhood education programs can break cycles of poverty and lead to lasting upward mobility. But funders say they have always been fragile, and have only become more so due to COVID-19.
Twenty-five years ago, the Carnegie Corporation released “Starting Points,” a report that described the lack of child care for infants and toddlers as a “quiet crisis.” It painted a bleak picture of overwhelmed families, persistent poverty, inadequate health care and child care of such poor quality that it threatened young children’s intellectual and emotional development.