By Susan Brown, President and CEO of Kids Co.
There is no doubt amongst business leaders, elected officials, employers, and employees that without childcare, economic recovery will be virtually impossible. The harsh reality is that if childcare 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 is not enough to sustain childcare. 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.
Childcare 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.
Childcare during COVID-19 comes at a high price.
Childcare 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 childcare 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. Childcare teachers are burning out under the pressure of the constant cleaning and disinfecting of everything, while also overseeing and managing groups of kids.
Childcare steps up to support schools with remote learning.
On top of all that childcare programs are doing to provide safe care, many of us are also supporting distance learning. In Seattle, childcare 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 childcare 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, childcare is doing everything we can to take care of our kids. We do this even though childcare 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. Childcare teachers are helping kids navigate all these experiences with care, patience, and grace. Childcare teachers are doing their best to give kids their childhoods back in the face of a pandemic.
Kids Co. and every other childcare business wants to be the support and resource for families we’ve always been. Without significant investment from government and business, childcare businesses will close. The question is when?
More resources about the impacts of COVID-19 on childcare and economic recovery:
Read our 2021 issue brief on Early Childhood Education
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