A “Home Away From Home:” Essential Child Care Programs Use CCSA COVID-19 Relief Funding to Provide Safe Spaces for Learning and Growth

As the summer communications intern for Child Care Services Association, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with child care providers who are making a difference for children. Through this experience, I have learned how essential these providers are and how an asset-based approach of investing back into individuals can make a significant impact on an entire community during a challenging time. 

COVID-19 has left child care programs to operate in extreme circumstances while providing safe and loving care to children. Child care educators are serving children and families with dwindling supplies, limited personal protective gear and increased health and safety guidelines. The CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund provides funding for child care programs struggling to meet the needs of essential workers and families returning to work. The funding will help programs get the tools and resources they need during this challenging time.

Felicia Klintensmith, the director at Pollocksville Presbyterian Child Care Center, a nonprofit child care center in Jones County,  received funding from CCSA’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. She has served the families that need child care during the pandemic, but her enrollment numbers decreased by nearly 50 percent and her center is dealing with increased costs for cleaning products.

“I personally want to see more funding for early childhood education and programs. I know the pre-K programs at the school get a lot of money, but I think the early childhood educators need more money also here at the centers,” Felicia said.

Many child care programs are struggling during this pandemic due to a shift in enrollment numbers and a decline in funding. Increased funding and support for early childhood educators are significant because if families can’t go back to work due to the lack of available child care, the economy can’t recover.

Stacey Myrick, the owner of Stacey’s Child Care, a family child care home in Halifax County, also received funding from CCSA’s COVID-19 Relief Fund and the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship program. She said the most difficult part of dealing with the impact of COVID-19 has been keeping up with health and safety regulations. She has been paying for some virtual learning opportunities and additional cleaning supplies.

“It’s only me, so I receive my kids at the door with a mask on the whole time. By them being small, I don’t allow them to wear masks, but I have my mask on. When I receive them, I check their temperature as soon as they arrive and do a lot of handwashing,” Stacey said.

Child care programs have been instructed to follow a set of interim guidelines provided by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). These actions are intended to minimize the spread of COVID-19; however, some of the actions are not feasible due to the costs. Early childhood education needs more funding to survive this pandemic. 

As we saw during the state shutdown, child care is an essential service much like roads and bridges. We all depend on parents with young children who are hospital workers, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, etc. whether or not each one of us has a child. And, therefore, we all depend on child care, which is clearer now, given our experience with COVID-19.

Additional funding is also essential because child care programs offer a safe space for children during this challenging time. This year, in particular, it is especially important for children to have a sense of normalcy and happiness.

“I wanted my kids to feel like it’s their home away from home,” said Stacey. “It’s not like they can just come in, sit down and do ABC’s or write. Of course, we do all that, but I want them to feel as if they can do that on their own, not just me sitting down and monitoring them to do it.”

CCSA has always played a role in helping child care programs provide the highest quality early learning experience for our state’s youngest children. The CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund Phase I was designed to provide small grants to child care centers and family child care homes in North Carolina. Funds were available to child care programs, such as Stacey’s and Felicia’s, that remained open and served the children of essential workers. For more information, visit www.childcareservices.org.

The CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund is funded by the generosity of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, the PNC Foundation, ChildTrust Foundation and Truist Charitable Fund as well as the many CCSA donors who contributed to the relief fund. Make a contribution today.