By Allory Bors, Research Coordinator
at Child Care Services Association
At the two month mark since the first case of COVID-19 in North Carolina, we at Child Care Services Association have created this timeline intended to help us mark major developments and consider how far we’ve come.
In our first post of the series, we discussed how the constant stream of COVID-19 news and developments can be disorienting. Before we have the chance to process one piece of information, we must urgently turn our attention to something else. Yet, advocating for young children, their families and child care providers in the long term will require us to stay vigilant and follow through.
For example, we have all heard about (or have firsthand experience with) the supports that should be coming to individuals, families and businesses through the CARES Act. However, thousands of North Carolinians have waited on the phone for hours to file an unemployment claim, and payouts have been delayed for weeks. Others have yet to receive their stimulus checks and small businesses struggle to navigate loan applications.
Even if the CARES Act works as intended, the Center for American Progress predicts a possible loss of 4.5 million child care slots nationally. Emergency solutions will require not only a great level of creativity but an understanding of context so we can say with confidence what will and won’t work to support the early childhood system.
If you or someone you know has firsthand experience you would like to share about filing for unemployment, finding child care or applying for small business loans, we would love to hear from you! Comments can be submitted by email here.
You will find some of the timeline’s highlights below. Click here to read the full timeline.
North Carolina COVID-19 March and April 2020 Timeline Highlights
In response to a growing number of cases, Governor Cooper announces a two-week school closure, which includes NC Pre-K and pre-K sites in public schools. Other child care settings are encouraged to stay open to meet demand for emergency child care.
NAEYC releases preliminary results from a COVID-19 survey conducted among child care providers beginning March 12. Nationally, 30% of these respondents said they would not survive a closing longer than two weeks without financial support.
Week of March 23
Child Care Services Association (CCSA) launches COVID-19 Relief Fund for child care programs, in partnership with the North Carolina Smart Start network.
Deadline for private child care centers and family child care homes in North Carolina to apply to stay open as emergency providers, which they must do in order to legally operate. Programs that do not apply are considered closed and are not eligible for some funding for this reason.
NC DHHS and DCDEE announce that all subsidy payments to child care providers will be paid through March, April and May, regardless of whether the center or child care home is open or closed.
The Bipartisan Policy Center releases results from a national poll of parents and guardians of young children who used child care in the last six months. Of parents who still need to use formal care, 63% reported difficulty finding care.
Governor Cooper announces Phase 1 of re-opening plan. Phase 1 includes loosening of restrictions with some retail businesses re-opening at reduced capacity. Previously closed child care centers are allowed to reopen serving families with working parents or parents looking for work.
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.” 
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.
Talking with babies can
be fun and it builds their brains!
Watch the videos below to see great everyday examples of
people just having fun interacting with our littlest kiddos:
Yes! These silly, funny and crazy fun moments build babies’ brains! It is really that simple, and these moments bring laughter and fun into your world. Studies also show that laughter is good for stress management in adults!
What the experts have
to say about talking to our littles
“Serve and return interactions shape brain architecture. When an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills.” –The Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University.
That’s what you just saw!
Now it’s your turn
Do you want to make a difference in the life of a child? You
can! No matter who you are or what your role is with children, simply having
some crazy fun interactions with a child will help to shape their future and
bring joy (and less stress) into yours.
PED was right – addressing the achievement gap requires much more attention to a child’s earliest years. While Pre-K expansion was recommended, research points to the birth to age 3 period of a child’s life as the time when the largest impact on a child’s development is possible. This period of early childhood must also be taken into account as we plan for the future for all NC families.
PED was charged with reviewing school districts nationwide with high poverty rates and at least average achievement by students to see if there were common strategies that could be used within North Carolina school districts. The project addressed three research questions,
are the characteristics of school districts that have high percentages of
economically disadvantaged students yet demonstrate high academic performance?
policies or practices are high-achieving disadvantaged districts implementing
that may contribute to student performance?
policies or practices could North Carolina implement in order to improve
performance in districts with high percentages of economically disadvantaged
The results were sobering. PED found that local school districts throughout the country struggled in attaining grade level or better student performance. In fact, PED identified only 5% of predominantly economically disadvantaged school districts that also had grade level or better student performance over a 7-year period. Within North Carolina, 45 of 115 school districts were identified as predominantly economically disadvantaged, which is about 39% of North Carolina school districts. Of those 45 school districts, only 7 (about 16%) met the bar of student performance at grade level (or above). While higher than the national average, 16% is nothing to boast about.
What PED found was that within economically disadvantaged school districts where students are performing well (at grade level or above), third grade is an important marker. Student growth occurs after 3rd grade but that efforts to address student competencies before grade 3 are most important in reducing the achievement gap.
PED conducted interviews within 12 economically disadvantaged school districts (comparable to school districts within North Carolina) with grade level (or above) student performance to see if there were any common strategies that led to higher student outcomes. One of the factors that the 12 school districts had in common was a significant investment in public pre-kindergarten (pre-K). Pre-K in two of the school districts (Durant Independent School District in Oklahoma and Steubenville City Schools in Ohio) target both three- and four-year-old children for enrollment. Four of the five North Carolina counties in which case study districts were located had 75% or more of eligible children participating in NC Pre-K.
However, PED notes that current funding enables only 47% of low-income eligible children statewide to participate in NC Pre-K.
The PED report makes two
Recommendation #1. The General Assembly should require low-performing school districts to include an early childhood improvement plan as a component of their required plans for improvement. PED calls for the development of specific strategies aimed at boosting achievement from pre-K to 3rd grade and lists expanding pre-K, improving pre-K quality, ensuring alignment of pre-K curricula with elementary school curricula, developing transition plans, providing professional development that focuses on early learning and providing instructional coaching focused on pre-kK through 3rd grade.
Recommendation #2. The General Assembly should require an assessment of early childhood learning as part of the Department of Public Instruction’s comprehensive needs assessment process for districts.
While those of us who have worked in the early childhood education field are glad to see the recommendations related to pre-K, and agree the NC Pre-K program should be fully-funded so all eligible children have an opportunity to participate, children are not born at age four.
Research shows that pre-K makes a difference in a child’s school readiness, particularly for low-income children. However, that same research also notes that a child’s gains in pre-K are directly related to his or her prior experiences before pre-K.
Neuroscience research shows that a child’s earliest years, from birth to age three, play a critical role in the development of brain wiring that lays a foundation for all future learning. In the first years of life, more than one million neural connections are formed every second.
This wiring frames the architecture upon which all future abilities are built. While people learn throughout their lives, a child’s earliest years are critical because they set the foundation. Genes and experiences help shape a young child’s brain development, which begin long before a child enters pre-K. And, remediation strategies are much more difficult as children (and adults) age.
According to the U.S. Census
Bureau’s latest data, throughout North Carolina:
356,007 children are under age three
465,783 children are under age six who also have working parents (young children residing in two-parent families where both parents work or in a single-parent family where the head of household works)
Young children with working mothers are in child care every week for about 36 hours according to the Census Bureau. Most of these children are not age four; they are not in pre-K. This is why any directive to the General Assembly to address the achievement gap, which rightly calls for addressing the early childhood landscape, has to not only focus on access to pre-K but also must focus on access to high-quality child care and the early childhood workforce that cares for our youngest children.
We applaud PED’s call for low performing school districts to include an early childhood improvement plan and an assessment of early learning opportunities as part of district comprehensive needs assessments. However, early learning is not limited to pre-K settings. High-quality child care programs are important early learning settings at all ages. Any needs assessment and early childhood improvement plans that are derived from such a landscape review must include our youngest children. Child development, school readiness and reducing the achievement gap depend on it.