Doris Gardner (pictured) is a family child care provider from Harnett County, North Carolina, with more than 20 years of early childhood experience and a master’s degree in early childhood education. She wrote to us in April after being denied a forgivable loan from the Paycheck Protection Program that would have helped her make up for lost revenue and afford cleaning supplies.
“I chose to stay open, not because of the money,” Doris said. “I already had lost my private pay, but because I love what I do and my parents value me and my children need me. COVID-19 is not the time for children to be thrown into a new environment, if possible.”
Indeed, child mental health experts suggest that consistent and supportive relationships are one of the most important factors for minimizing young children’s stress responses to the pandemic. Predictability offers emotional protection during a time when young children are more likely to develop anxiety, sleeping problems, depression or unusual behaviors. But, predictability is difficult to maintain when some child care family homes and centers don’t have the resources they need to stay afloat.
Rose Alvarez, a child care provider and T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship recipient from Mebane, North Carolina, has been out of work since the end of March because her center had to close.
“The whole world is suffering because of the pandemic,” Rose said. “Sometimes, I sit and think of what I really want to do when things get back to ‘normal.’ Do I want to return to work or just stay home and be safe with my family because no one knows what ‘normal’ will be after this.”
Advocates have stressed that, for the vitality of the early childhood system in North Carolina, this “new normal” must be better than the state of things before the pandemic. COVID-19 has brought many pre-existing flaws in the early childhood system to the fore, including a lack of support for family child care providers. Family child care providers like Doris not only face the logistical challenges of being self-employed while applying for federal COVID-19 aid, home providers also receive a smaller amount of financial relief from state level DHHS grants as centers as it is based on numbers of children served.
“We operate like centers (curriculums, education, safety, etc.), have the same needs (materials, food, supplies, bills, etc.) and are held at the same standards,” Doris shared. “At the end of the day as an essential worker, putting my family as well as my [own] life on the line…I do not feel as if I am on the same playing field as [those] who have centers…My peers have shared my sentiments which is why some opt to close, and others are thinking of permanently closing.”
Luckily, Doris wrote us again in June, and said she was able to receive a small business loan, which is helping her continue to support her families, as well as a couple of new families who needed emergency care due to COVID-19. She and other home providers still face challenges. She worries about the impact of remote schooling on providers with school-age children, because of pre-pandemic limits on the amount of screen time children are allowed to have.
Rose is maintaining as well, working toward her associate degree and completing workshops from home, and trying out new recipes. Her center has reopened, so she is waiting for the child care ratio to increase to see if she will be needed back at work. Rose said, “All we can do is take care of ourselves…and our families near and far.”
Coping with the changes of COVID-19 and righting the wrongs in our early childhood system will not be easy, but it is how we care for all our families, near and far. One step CCSA is taking is our COVID-19 Child Care Relief Fund, which is now open for a second round of grant funding to North Carolina child care programs in need. Grants will range in amount from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the magnitude of needs expressed, and the number of applicants awarded. Click here to apply by August 12, 2020, at 5:00 p.m.
If you are a child care provider, how can we best care for you? How are you caring for yourself? Write to us here if you would like to share your story, and have the chance to be featured in a future blog post.
Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood Blog Series
To be continued…