Marsha Basloe, president of Child Care Services Association
As I drove to work this morning, the
conversation on my news radio station was around essential positions in our
communities. They mentioned hospitals, schools, grocery stores and more.
We must not forget our child care programs and
the early childhood educators who teach and care for our children every day!
As the coronavirus affects all aspects of our
lives, I urge federal, state and local policymakers to consider early childhood
educators as essential workers in today’s economy. Any measures taken by
government to support Americans who do not have paid sick leave, early
childhood educators must be included. These dedicated teachers are the
workforce that supports all other workforces. With K-12 schools closing, child
care centers must consider whether to remain open and risk exposure or to close
and put their teachers and staff at risk of not being paid. The centers that
choose to remain open might also be needed to serve additional children.
Early childhood educators are one of the
lowest-paid workforces in the U.S., and often do not have paid sick leave or
health insurance. And yet, this does not reflect their value to our children
and families. Science tells us the first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial for brain
development, setting the architecture for all future learning. “Early
experiences affect the development of the brain and lay the foundation for
intelligence, emotional health, and moral development,” according to Jack
Shonkoff, director of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. 
“The lack of paid sick days could make
coronavirus harder to contain in the United States compared with other
countries that have universal sick leave policies in place,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro,
who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing federal health
agencies, said in a statement. “Low-income workers and their families could be hit
even harder by the virus, as low wage jobs are at the forefront of not
providing sick leave benefits.” .
never be forced to choose between staying home or working while sick to earn a
living,” said Congressman David Price.  While it didn’t pass in
Congress, Congressman Price co-sponsored Rep. DeLauro’s
Healthy Families Act “because we need a national paid sick leave policy to help
families take care of illnesses and the financial burden it may cause. And, it
will help contain the spread of viruses like coronavirus by allowing sick
workers to remain home.” 
Early childhood educators ARE essential personnel. If federal, state and local governments
are going to support essential jobs, we must also support our child care workforce
and our early childhood programs.
We hope that North Carolina will consider
multiple areas to support programs and families, including:
Adjusting payment policies so they are based on
enrollment of children rather than actual attendance;
Waiving any state policies that terminate child
eligibility based on a specific number of absent days;
Temporarily suspending redetermination of family
eligibility for child care services;
Allowing providers to waive co-pays and adjusting
reimbursement rates accordingly.
There are many more ways we can support our
communities, and we would be happy to work with the state on this. We need to ensure
that we support our early childhood community!
child deserves the best chance to succeed,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “That means
we have to support families, early childhood teachers, and all those who have
an impact on early childhood development.” 
If any issue warrants
public attention, public discussion and rethinking as to the best way to ensure
families with young children have access to child care and pre-kindergarten, it
is our nation’s current approach to the safety and healthy development of young
children. It’s not a system as much as a patchwork quilt stitched together over
decades. The federal government allocates funds to states through individual
programs or funding streams (i.e., block grants), each with different rules,
administered by different state agencies, and too often resulting in siloed
approaches with little to no coordination or collaboration among state agencies,
departments, divisions or communities.
In December 2019,
Congress enacted the FY2020 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
Appropriations measure, which included the following funding levels for early
care and education programs:
In addition to the funding above, in FY2019, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture allocated $3.7 billion to states to support healthy meals and snacks for low-income children in child care centers and family child care homes  and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services allocated the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to states, of which states chose to use $3.8 billion for child care and $2.6 billion for state pre-K.  The number of children served by TANF funds for child care or pre-K is unknown because the federal government only requires aggregate spending to be reported, not how many children are served, the setting children are in (homes or centers, licensed or unlicensed) or the average price paid per child. In all, that’s more than $35 billion through various federal funds for early care and education programs.
Child care is the largest early childhood program with $12.5 billion in funding and yet only about 17 percent of eligible children (based on state standards) receive a subsidy.  Many states have a waiting list for assistance, including North Carolina with a waiting list of more than 40,000 children. Families have a difficult time finding care, affording care, and then many parents express concern about the quality of care. Numerous national reports have been released about child care deserts, communities where the need for child care for parents of children under age 6 pales in comparison to the licensed supply of child care.  The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services released a report in October 2019 that found the supply of home-based care has declined by more than 97,000 providers since 2005. 
Why? Child care is a business. Child care centers tend to operate in areas where the population is dense enough with sufficient numbers of private-pay families who can afford weekly parent fees. The operating budget for child care centers largely comprises parent fees and therefore staff is hired at the lowest wages possible to hold costs down. In a good economy with low unemployment, like we have today, turnover is high because staff often can find better-paying jobs in fast food, retail sales or other jobs that require less training or education. Turnover also costs businesses because of the marketing, interviewing, hiring and training required for new staff.
For home-based providers, the hours are long and the pay is low. According to a 2019 economic impact report by the Committee for Economic Development,  the average annual income of home-based providers is approximately $15,000 per year,  18% higher than in North Carolina, where the average income of home-based providers is $12,300.  The decline in home-based providers (who often serve infants and toddlers) is a hardship for parents, particularly those in rural communities where the economics of operating a center don’t work. Home-based care is often less expensive and providers may be more willing to stay open during nontraditional hours for those parents who work shift work or have long commutes to their job. Yet, again, wages drive interest in opening a home-based program (or closing one) because other jobs in the community may pay more with fewer hours and less stress.
The reality is that mothers are working today. Nationally, approximately 72 percent of mothers with children under age 6 are working outside of the home,  65.4 percent of mothers with children age 2 are working  and, 57.8 percent of mothers with children under age 1 are working.  Many of these mothers need child care, but federal subsidies reach only one out of every six eligible children. Therefore, most families are forced to afford whatever they can find. However, in too many communities, the supply is not available, let alone affordable.
There is no doubt that if our nation’s early care and education system were designed today, it would look much different. If we can’t think out of the box about a new bold system to better meet the needs of families with young children, we will be stuck with incremental, minor band-aids that ignore the real problem: the system is under-financed and poorly designed. Parents can’t afford quality child care, but we know from the research that high-quality child care really matters to the healthy development of children, particularly in the earliest years as a child’s brain is developing the fastest, setting the architecture for all future social, emotional, physical and cognitive skills. 
Two decades ago, child care was a work support. Today, we know that it is a two-generation strategy. High-quality child care helps parents work and helps support the healthy development of children. In fact, parents who can’t access child care reduce their hours or drop out of the workforce. About 94 percent of those who involuntarily work part-time are mothers who cite child care problems as their reason for working part-time. 
In 2018, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released “Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education,” which reviewed the multiple funding streams for early care and education and made a number of recommendations. The NAS Committee, made up of early childhood experts and finance experts, recommended investing in early care and education at a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) aligned with the average of other member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report recommended increasing funds in four phases, from at least $5 billion in phase one to $53 billion in phase four. 
However, it is not just
about the money. It is also about program design and meeting the needs of
families in urban and rural areas and in an array of settings that best meet
the needs of the family and each individual child with an early education workforce
that is trained and paid appropriately for the important work they do.
Rethinking is always a
bit more challenging than staying in the box with patchwork fixes. The current
system isn’t working for low-income children whose families need a subsidy or
the private market where working parents need access to affordable high-quality
child care and early education programs. It is time for a discussion about a
Basloe, President, Child Care Services Association
Families with jobs and secure housing access child care
through our country’s Child Care Resource & Referral network, friends and
family and the internet. Without child
care, families experiencing homelessness struggle to secure housing. And yet, for
these families, accessing child care offers two important benefits—the chance
to be able to participate in job training, education, and other programs
essential to resolving their homelessness and the opportunity to have a safe
setting for children to grow!
Research has established a strong connection between a young child’s early experiences and the development of his or her brain structure. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the early years of life when more than 1 million new neural connections form every second, can provide a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior and health. We know that homelessness jeopardizes the health, early childhood development and educational well-being of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children. It also creates unique barriers to participating in early care and education. With nearly 50% of children living in federally-funded homeless shelters under the age of five, this is a problem for families, communities, states and the country.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, signed into law on November 19, 2014, reauthorized the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Program. The reauthorized law made significant advancements by defining health and safety requirements for child care providers, outlining family-friendly eligibility policies, and ensuring parents and the general public have transparent information about available child care choices.
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published the
Final Rule to implement the Child Care and Development Fund program (CCDF) in
September 2016. The full regulations may be read here.
The McKinney-Vento Act’s education definition of homelessness to be used by child care (and Head Start and public education),
A grace period or flexibility to obtain immunizations and other documents needed so that children experiencing homelessness can be served more quickly,
Outreach to homeless families with children,
Training and technical assistance in identifying and serving homeless children and their families,
The coordination of services so that families with children can get the help that they need, and
Data reporting to know how many families (and children) experiencing homelessness are receiving child care assistance.
States submitted 2016-2018 CCDF Plans and excerpts from Section 3.2.2., Improving Access to High Quality Child Care for Homeless Families, within State Plans were shared here. The state plans for 2016-2018 indicated that while many states had policies in place to help families experiencing homelessness access child care assistance, the majority of states were not yet adequately addressing those families’ unique needs.
The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Plan serves as
the application for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds by
providing a description of, and assurance about, state child care programs and related
services available to eligible families. The Office of Child Care reviews the
Plans for approval.
The CCDF Plan also presents an opportunity for states to demonstrate the activities and services they are providing to meet the needs of low-income children and families. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) makes Plans publicly available to many users including members of Congress, Congressional committees, State and local child care administrators, advocacy groups, researchers and the general public. For states looking for innovative ways to better meet the child care needs of families experiencing homelessness, the publication of the state plans serves as a clearinghouse of resources for states to replicate or customize to finetune their strategies to best support these families.
The 2019-2021 CCDF State Plans show that States have embraced the CCDF law and regulations with regard to serving families experiencing homelessness, making changes to policies and practice, including eligibility requirements, coordinating with partners, increasing access and providing professional development for those within the child care field to not only increase access to child care but also to ensure that families with children experiencing homelessness receive the support and services they need. These State Plans can be found here.
View other resources for early childhood homelessness here.
By Marsha Basloe, President, Child Care Services Association
During a child’s earliest years, brain development occurs that sets the architecture for all future learning (e.g., the wiring needed for healthy child development across social, emotional, physical, and cognitive areas). This is what makes high-quality child care for infants and toddlers so important.
At the same time, infant and toddler care is the hardest to find. The supply of infant and toddler care pales in comparison to the needs of working parents. A report by the Center for American Progress found that 44 percent of families in North Carolina live in a child care desert where the demand for child care by working families far exceeds the supply.
Even when families can find it, too many struggle with the cost, particularly for infants and toddlers. Throughout North Carolina, the average annual price of child care for an infant in a child care center is $9,254. The average annual price of child care for an infant in a family child care home is $7,412.
perspective, for a single mother earning minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) working
full-time, she would earn $15,080 per year. The cost of center-based infant
care would be 61.4 percent of her income. The cost of infant care in a family
child care home would be 49.2 percent of her income. If she earns twice the
minimumwage ($14.50 per hour), about $30,160 per year – the cost of
child care in a center would be 30.7 percent of her income. The cost of infant
care in a family child care home would be 24.6 percent of her income. If she earnsthree times the minimum wage ($21.75 per hour), her annual income would
be about $45,240 per year. Center-based infant care would cost 20.5 percent of
her income; infant care in a family child care home would cost 16.4 percent of
To help families with the cost of child care, the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) offers qualifying families a subsidy. The state pays most of the cost and families have a 10 percent co-pay. Unfortunately, not all families who qualify can receive assistance and more than 30,000 eligible children throughout the state are on a waiting list for child care financial help. It is important to note that the waiting list is only a snapshot in time because some families don’t join the list when they hear about the length of it. So, the waiting list reflects only those who qualify for help and who also add their names to the waiting list in case more funding becomes available to support additional families.
For families with infants
and toddlers, the supply and cost are both struggles. It’s unrealistic to think
that families can access the licensed market if they have to pay a huge
percentage of their income to cover the cost. Why is that a concern to all
North Carolina taxpayers? There are several reasons.
Quality of child care and long-term taxpayer bills. When parents can’t afford the licensed market, if they must stay in the workforce to make ends meet, then they will try to make do with a variety of unlicensed care options. Given the brain development that is underway during a child’s earliest years, it is critical that a child be in a setting that promotes his or her healthy development. That’s one of the reasons for the rated child care license in North Carolina and one of the reasons the NC General Assembly restricted the receipt of child care subsidies to programs with at least a 3-star rating. Supporting healthy child development is important, particularly for infants and toddlers when the brain is developing the fastest. Taxpayers will pay more in the long-term when a child enters kindergarten without the skills to succeed through additional costs for remediation, for special education, and for those children who must repeat a grade (e.g., repeating a grade is not “free”).
Labor force participation. Without affordable child care, parents reduce their hours or opt-out of the workforce. Ninety-four percent of workers involuntarily working part-time due to child care problems are women. In North Carolina, 457,706 children under age 6 have working parents. If one-third to one-half of these children under 6 are infants and toddlers, that’s 151,043 to 228,853 children who may need some type of child care while their parents work.
Employers & Employees. Employers depend on working parents. And, working parents with young children depend on some type of child care.
As the General Assembly meets to
discuss budget priorities, child care assistance should be at the top of the
list. Given the extraordinary cost of child care for infants and toddlers, the
General Assembly may want to consider reviewing other models to support access
to high-quality infant and toddler care.
In June 2018, the District of Columbia City Council unanimously passed the Birth to Three for All DC Act. The legislation charts the path for a comprehensive system of supports for children’s healthy growth and development with a specific focus on services for families with infants and toddlers. The Act is broad — investing in home visiting and child developmental screening, however, with regard to child care for infants and toddlers, the Act expands child care subsidy eligibility for infants and toddlers to all families by 2027, caps the percentage of annual income a family would pay toward child care expenses at 10 percent of gross income by 2028, and phases in competitive compensation for early educators. The District is now in its second year of implementation with $16 million in funding for FY2020. City Council members say it’s a high priority to increase funding as part of the 2021 budget, and work on that front is underway.
There are certainly differences
in passing legislation that supports a city (even a large city like Washington,
D.C.) compared to a state. However, the concept is innovative. It recognizes
that the cost of infant and toddler care is so high that all families may
struggle with the cost. It recognizes that access to high-quality infant and
toddler care is important to a child’s healthy development. And, it recognizes
that a compensation strategy for the child care workforce is needed to support
It is time to rethink the state’s
approach to child care subsidy, and especially how families with infants and
toddlers are supported in accessing high-quality child care. In the new year,
let’s give thanks for what we have and think through policies that can best
support our children in the future.
By Marsha Basloe, President, Child Care
Working Parents Need Access to Quality Child Care – More Support Needed
for Child Care Workforce
Currently, throughout North Carolina, nearly half a million (457,706) children under age six live in a family where all parents in the household are working. Many of these children are in some type of child care setting every week so that their parents can obtain and retain jobs that sustain and grow our state’s economy.
A study by the Committee for Economic Development (CED) shows that child care as an industry has an economic impact in North Carolina of $3.15 billion annually ($1.47 billion in direct revenue and $1.67 billion in spillover in other industries throughout our counties and cities). Child care programs have an overall job impact throughout the state of 64,852, which includes 47,282 individuals who are employed within child care centers or who operate a home-based business plus another 17,570 in spillover jobs – created through the activity of those operating child care programs. The economic impact of child care matters because it helps drive local economies. When parents can access child care, they are more likely to enter the workforce and stay employed.
The Child Care
Workforce: Early Brain Builders
What we know is that child care is not only a work support for parents but also an early learning setting for young children. Research shows that a child’s earliest years are when the brain is developing the fastest – forming a foundation for all future social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. During this time, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second. This is important to understand because both parents and child care providers play an important role in supporting healthy child development – helping to shape the brain’s foundation for all future learning (e.g., school readiness and school success).
Because both genes and experiences impact a child’s brain development, the child care workforce plays a critical role in supporting early learning. In essence, they are brain builders – working with children to support a strong foundation on which later learning depends – just like the foundation for a house, all floors above the basement depend on the construction or sturdiness of the basement.
The Workforce that
Supports All Other Workforces
Despite the important role that child care educators play in supporting our next generation (as well as supporting the ability of parents to work), the current economic model for child care programs falls short of supporting child care workers in a way that recognizes their role in child development. How so? The operating budget for child care programs is based on parent fees and state subsidies paid for low-income children.
Because the current cost of child care in North Carolina is so high (e.g., $9,254 annually for center-based infant care), program directors try to keep costs down because they know parents can’t pay more. However, what this translates to is low wages for the child care field. In today’s economy, where the fast-food industry and retail sales pay higher hourly wages and often offer benefits, the competition for the workforce to enter the early childhood field is steep. In fact, the early childhood field is experiencing a workforce crisis.
In North Carolina, the median wage earned for child care teachers is about $10.97 per hour ($22,818 per year if full time) and assistant teachers earn $9.97 per hour. These wages represent a modest 0.7% increase in buying power despite much larger gains in education. The study also found that statewide, 39% of teachers and teacher assistants had needed at least one type of public assistance (e.g., TANF, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, etc.) in the past three years.
Child Care Services Association (CCSA) is conducting a county-level early childhood workforce study for the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) that will be completed in August 2020. Once completed, North Carolina will have additional information.
For context, many child care educators are supporting their own families. With these wages, they fall well short of the level that qualifies them for public food assistance benefits (e.g., a family of three with income under $27,000 per year qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP). It’s not hard to understand that workers in low wage jobs face stresses in making ends meet, in supporting their own families and in parking their stress outside the classroom door when working with young children.
In North Carolina, the
state funds two programs administered by CCSA to support the early childhood
Child Care WAGE$® Program, which provides education-based salary supplements to low paid teachers, directors and family child care educators working with children ages birth to five. The program is designed to increase retention, education and compensation. The Child Care WAGE$® Program is a funding collaboration between local Smart Start partnerships (55 partnerships) and the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE). Salary supplements are earned – tied to the recipient’s level of education, with teachers and family child care providers awarded on a different scale than directors.
These strategies are invaluable to better support the child care workforce for the important work that they do. It raises salaries sometimes almost a dollar an hour. You can see the impact of these programs on our website. This is an investment in the workforce that supports all other workforces, AND also an investment that results in better outcomes for our children (e.g., brain-building that leads to school readiness). We hope these programs will grow in the years ahead to support our early childhood educators who care for our young children and families.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the work of our early educators. It is time for our communities to think about compensation for the early childhood workforce in a manner that reflects their contribution to our state’s prosperity.
On August 11, 2019, every parent’s worst nightmare happened in Erie, Pennsylvania, as a fire in an overnight family child care home took the lives of five young children ranging in age from 9 months old to 8 years old. Harris Family Daycare was regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and operated out of a three-story home for nearly 20 years. The owner offered nontraditional (and overnight) hour care to meet the needs of working parents in her community.
When I saw the news day,
my heart was heavy and my thoughts were with the families and the family child
In the United States, one out of five adult workers has a nonstandard work schedule (working early morning hours, evening hours, or overnight compared to those who work more traditional day time jobs). Among low-income families, studies have found that half of parents work jobs during nontraditional hours (e.g., cleaning offices at night or working second shift retail or food service jobs). For families who need child care during nontraditional hours, the search for child care is extraordinarily difficult. Few child care centers offer care during nontraditional hours and about one-third of regulated family child care homes offer nontraditional hour care.
In the Erie case, the mother of four of the children who died was working as a nurse during an overnight shift. The father of three of the children was a fireman responding to a call at a different location. The fire occurred at 1:15 a.m. presumably while everyone was sleeping. Fire investigators found one smoke detector located in the attic and preliminary reports indicate the fire may have been caused through an extension cord malfunction.
For regulated child care (centers and homes), federal law requires an annual inspection for health, safety and fire standards. However, fire safety rules and inspection compliance procedures are set individually by each state. To operate a licensed family child care home in North Carolina,
A battery operated smoke detector or an
electronically operated (with a battery backup) smoke detector is required.
For homes operating overnight, a battery
operated smoke detector or an electronically operated (with a battery backup)
smoke detector is required in each room where children are sleeping.
An annual licensing inspection is required and a
local fire inspection is required if the county in which the home is located
How do the North
Carolina child care licensing requirements measure up against National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA) recommendations?
Unrelated to whether a home is used for child care purposes, NFPA requires that at a minimum, smoke alarms be installed in each sleeping room and on every level of the home. NFPA recommends that smoke alarms be tested once per month. For smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries, the battery should be replaced immediately if the alarm chirps (indicating the battery is low). For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, batteries should be replaced once per year.
In the case of the Erie family child care home fire, there was confusion about whose job it was to check for smoke alarm compliance (e.g., the P.A. Department of Human Services during annual inspections or the local fire department). Pennsylvania state legislators are now drafting legislation to clarify roles and responsibilities and requirements. Perhaps it is time for us to review those regulations and make sure that lessons learned from Pennsylvania are used to inform safety practices here in North Carolina.
Fire safety generally is a large issue. North Carolina does need fire safety rules and effective monitoring in place for licensed child care. At the same time, the public generally needs to be aware of potential fire danger and NFPA smoke alarm recommendations. It is important that all centers and homes be equipped with working smoke detectors, that those smoke alarms are regularly tested and that batteries are replaced on an annual basis. At $5 – $20, many smoke alarms are an inexpensive investment.
for licensed family child care homes, it is critical to ensure that fire
protection policies are clear, and that the roles and responsibilities for
safety checks are clear as well. Parents work nontraditional hours. Child care
is needed, which may involve hours in which everyone in the household is
asleep. The tragedy in Erie, P.A. gives us a chance to review fire safety rules
for N.C. licensed family child care homes and centers. A child’s life depends
Publicly supported preschool services for 4-year-olds is a huge need in Durham County, yet NC Pre-K does not have all its seats filled for this school year, which starts in only a few weeks.
According to the Durham County Government, there are nearly 4,000 4-year-olds each year in Durham County, about half of whom live in households making less than $50,000 a year. Children from lower-income households are often left behind their peers, furthering inequality and setting the stage for an achievement gap that persists through high school. As a vibrant, growing community, Durham recognizes the short- and long-term benefits of a high quality early childhood program for the community, but most especially for children and their families, particularly those earning low-incomes.
Our research found there are six low-income preschool children for every one publicly funded preschool space in Durham through programs such as NC Pre-K, Durham Public Schools and Head Start. With funding from the Durham County Government, the Durham PreK umbrella offers the opportunity for universal services for all 4-year-olds in Durham County through these programs.
“Durham is making a bold investment in the future by supporting early education for our young children,” said Linda Chappel, Senior Vice President of Triangle Area Child Care Resources and Referral Services at Child Care Services Association (CCSA). “We will not rest while some of our children are left behind, furthering inequality and setting the stage for the achievement gap that persists through high school and beyond.”
As president of CCSA, I have authorized CCSA’s Triangle Area Child Care Resource and Referral Services Division to make this our number one priority, and I hope Durham’s Partnership for Children and Durham Public Schools do the same.
Every child deserves affordable, accessible, high-quality child care, and Durham PreK works to ensure just that. We hope to be able to utilize every spot for Durham PreK, Durham County’s commitment to high-quality publicly-funded preschool for all 4-year-olds.
Durham’s Partnership for Children is still accepting applications for enrollment for this school year. Families can apply for NC Pre-K by contacting Durham’s Partnership for Children at 919-403-6960 or by visiting dpfc.net/our-work/ncpk/. CCSA works with the Partnership to enroll children in the Durham PreK program once they are in NC Pre-K.
About Durham PreK:
Durham PreK is committed to improving the quality of preschool programs by providing financial support, training opportunities for teachers and increasing eligibility for families to enroll their child. Beginning in 2018, Durham County Government has committed to equitable access to high-quality preschool for all children in Durham. Investments will not only increase the number of publicly funded pre-K slots but also broaden eligibility and work with teachers and private centers to build their quality through teacher and director education, mentoring and coaching. For more information, visit https://www.childcareservices.org/durham-prek/.
About Child Care Services Association:
Founded in 1974, Child Care Services Association’s mission is to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality child care for all young children and their families. Using a holistic approach, CCSA supports children and families find child care in the Triangle, helps child care professionals improve the quality of early education children receive and provides scholarship resources so all families can afford and access high-quality early care and education. CCSA also provides healthy meals for children at child care centers throughout the Triangle with our Meal Services program. Our T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®, Child Care WAGE$® and Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$ programs give child care educators the means to obtain an education and supplement their salary based on that education, increasing teacher education, retention and compensation. CCSA also licenses T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$ across the U.S. and conducts early childhood systems research and policy development statewide and nationally. For more information, visit www.childcareservices.org.
“Better Together”was the theme of this year’s Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Institute held in Greensboro, N.C. in March, and Mary Erwin recently shared details of the Institute. A highlight of this year’s conference was the keynote delivered by Dr. Walter Gilliam from the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale. This blog is to keep the keynote information on our minds and in our work.
Delivered in a “TED talk” manner, Dr. Gilliam shared his research on implicit bias with the audience and the implications research has on both policy and practice impacting the early childhood workforce and children in early learning settings.
What is Implicit Bias?
Webster’s dictionary defines it as “bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs”.
What is the Relationship Between Implicit Bias and Early Childhood Settings?
Dr. Gilliam shared data from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights that found black boys in particular were disproportionately suspended or expelled from preschool. To learn more about whether this may be related to the behavior of the child or the perceptions of the teaching workforce, Dr. Gilliam and his team at Yale conducted a study. Specifically, Dr. Gilliam wanted to see whether implicit biases may play a role in identifying children with challenging behaviors.
Video Observation Study
Dr. Gilliam’s team recruited participants at a nationwide conference of early childhood educators. Early childhood teachers were asked to watch several video clips of preschool children engaged in typical table top activities. The children were racially balanced (one white boy and girl and one black boy and girl). Early childhood teachers were told the study was related to better understanding to how teachers detect challenging behaviors in the classroom. They were told sometimes this involves seeing behavior before it becomes a problem and were asked to press the enter key on a computer keyboard every time they saw a behavior that could become a potential challenge. They were told the video clips may or may not contain challenging behaviors and to press the keypad as often as needed. In addition to the keypad entries, an eye tracking device was used to log the time teachers spent watching the behavior of individual children. (For frame ofreference with regard to the children,they were child actorsand no challenging behaviors werepresent).
Dr. Gilliam and his team found teachers spent more time looking at boys and at black children than girls and white children. In particular, teachers spent more time watching the black boy in the videos. When teachers were asked explicitly which of the children required most of their attention, 42% indicated the black boy, 34% indicated the white boy, 13% indicated the white girl, and 10% indicated the black girl. The race of the teacher did not impact the findings.
Background Information Study
A second part of the study was related to finding out if teachers were provided information about the child’s background, whether that impacted their perception of the severity of the behavior and their ability to impact the child’s behavior. For this part of the study, early childhood teachers were given a brief description of a preschool student with his or her behavioral challenges. The description of child behaviors remained the same, but the name of the child associated with the description changed to reflect stereotypical black and white girl and boy names (Latoya, Emily, DeShawn and Jake).
To test if teachers changed their perceptions of the child’s behavior when given a brief family background summary, some teachers were also given more context related to the child’s home environment (e.g., the child lives with a single mother working multiple jobs and who struggles with depression but doesn’t have resources to receive help; the father is barely around, but when he is around, the parents fight loudly in front of the children, and sometimes violent disputes occur). The study randomized whether the early childhood teachers received background information or not.
Gilliam and his team found that teachers appeared to expect challenging
behaviors more from black children and specifically black boys. Without family
background, white teachers seemed to hold black children to lower behavioral
expectations. In contrast, black teachers held black children to very high
provision of family background information caused different perceptions based
on teacher-child race. For example, when black teachers were provided with
family background information on black children, teachers rated child behavior
as less severe. When white teachers were provided with family background
information on black children, behavior severity ratings increased – potentially
indicating knowing family stressors may lead to feelings of hopelessness that
behavior problems can improve.
The Role of Implicit Bias in Early Childhood Settings
Dr. Gilliam explained that understanding the role implicit bias may play in child care and early learning settings is the first step toward addressing racial disparities in discipline approaches. He explained that interventions are underway throughout the country designed to address biases directly or increase teachers’ empathy for children (which paves the way for more effective strategies related to children’s learning styles and behaviors).
Progress in North Carolina
Carolina is beginning to review and implement strategies to address implicit
bias, give early childhood teachers strategies to promote more effective ways
to address challenging behavior and to support high-quality child care programs
through better teacher-child interactions.
We are exploring infant and toddler mental health consultant evidence-based approaches as well as the use of tools to improve teacher-child interactions through the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), which measures teacher interactions and is paired with specific improvement strategies identified through observational assessments. Overall, practice-based coaching models can impact teacher strategies to better meet the needs of children.
Marsha Basloe, President of Child Care Services Association
Last week I had the opportunity to attend an early childhood summit in Raleigh to support the launch of the North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan. Governor Roy Cooper, Former Governor Jim Hunt, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, state legislators, philanthropists, advocates and early childhood leaders from across the state came to Raleigh to unite behind a 10-goal plan with measurable benchmarks to improve the lives of young children by 2025. Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, was the keynote speaker.
North Carolina has been a national leader on early childhood initiatives over the past several decades. And during those years, much progress has been made to better meet the needs of our state’s young children. However, even with those efforts, still too many children are left behind and the health, well-being and school readiness gap between children of different races and ethnicities is stark.
Last August, Governor Cooper charged the NC Department of Health and Human Services to work with the NC Early Childhood Advisory Council to develop a statewide Early Childhood Action Plan to:
improve young children’s health,
support safe and nurturing environments for children and families, and
provide high-quality early childhood learning opportunities.
The governor’s Executive Order called for strategies and timeframes for achieving the goals as well as metrics that would be publicly reported to chart progress. Nearly 1,500 people throughout the state provided suggestions and feedback on an early draft released in November 2018. Over the next six months, the plan was drafted and coordinated by Becki Planchard, MPP, Senior Early Childhood Policy Advisor at NCDHHS.
Early Childhood Action Plan Goals and Targets
Goal 1: Healthy Babies
2025 Target: By 2025, reduce the statewide infant mortality rate across by child race and ethnicity.
Goal 2: Preventive Health Services
2025 Target: By 2025, increase the percentage of North Carolina’s young children enrolled in Medicaid and Health Choice who receive regular well-child visits as part of a health care delivery process that provides comprehensive, patient-centered, accessible, quality care as recommended for the ages of young children.
Goal 3: Food Security
2025 Target: By 2025, reduce the percentage of children living across North Carolina in food insecure homes.
Goal 4: Safe and Secure Housing
2025 Target: (Part 1) By 2025, reduce the percentage of children across North Carolina under age six experiencing homelessness by at least 10%. (Part 2) By 2025, reduce the number of children in kindergarten through third grade enrolled in NC public schools who are experiencing homelessness by at least 10%.
Goal 5: Safe and Nurturing Relationships
2025 Target: By 2025, reduce by 10% the rate of children in North Carolina who are substantiated victims of child abuse and maltreatment.
Goal 6: Permanent Families for Children in Foster Care
2025 Target: (Part 1) Reunification: By 2025, reduce the number of days it takes for a child in the foster care system to be reunified with his or her family, if appropriate. (Part 2) Adoption: By 2025, reduce the number of days it takes for a child in the foster care system to be adopted, if reunification is not appropriate.
Goal 7: Social-Emotional Health and Resilience
2025 Target: By 2025, North Carolina will have a reliable, statewide measure of young children’s social-emotional health and resilience at the population level.
Goal 8: High-Quality Early Learning
2025 Target: (Part 1) By 2025, increase the percentage of income-eligible children enrolled in NC Pre-K statewide from 47% to 75%. (Part 2) By 2025, reduce the percent of family income spent on child care according to statewide price data and income thresholds adjusted by family size.
Goal 9: On Track for School Success
2025 Target: By 2025, increase the percentage of children across North Carolina who enter kindergarten at a level typical for their age group, according to the five domains of the NC DPI Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA).
Goal 10: Reading at Grade Level
2025 Target: By 2025, increase the percentage of children across the state achieving high levels of reading proficiency by both NC state end of year testing and national testing conducted through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
It’s up to all of us in each community to lean in and make a difference. Dr. Shonkoff summed it up well, “Build responsive relationships, reduce sources of stress, and strengthen core life skills.” The benchmarks are attainable if we all lean in. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and expand what works and apply innovative solutions to the hard challenges that may require some more customized approaches.