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
By Cass Wolfe, CSO at
Child Care Services Association
This year marks the 100th year anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States, with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Women waged a nearly 100-year effort, marked by setbacks and conflict while demanding the right to vote. Yet today, there are still significant efforts in several states to restrict voting for some groups of people. As such, it is important that those of us who can vote actually do vote. It is a right, a responsibility and a way to participate in the governance of our communities, state and nation. Don’t give up your right to someone whose opinions and views are different or maybe even the opposite of yours!
According to the United States Elections Project, only 49.6%
of eligible North Carolina voters actually voted in 2018. Yet the voices of
voters who care about issues that impact diverse families are necessary to increase
funding and political interest in early childhood. With the complex,
multi-layered challenges of the early care and education system, it is
increasingly clear that additional political will and government funding are
critical to improving early care and education for every child, parent, teacher
For the first time ever, the major candidates for U.S. president
have policy stances on child care and early education. The candidates have
varying positions, some supporting pre-kindergarten for all, while others are advocating
for more comprehensive birth to 5 programming and parent fee relief. Look at
each candidate’s website to learn about their priorities for children, families
The point is, each of us has an opportunity to help shape
the conversation around child care and to support the candidates we each feel
speak to our concerns the most clearly. But you have to be registered to vote. Fortunately,
you have two options!
While North Carolina’s primary is Tuesday, March 3, 2020 and only those
registered by February 7th can vote in this primary, you can
participate in early voting and register
when you are at the polling place. Early voting is February 13 – February 29 and is very convenient, with a variety
of dates, times and locations. Click on your county’s name to get the Durham, Orange
early voting schedules. If you live in a different county, click here.
Finally, if you think you are registered, click here to ensure you are still
One last important bit of information for the primary is
that contrary to earlier information, you will
not need any identification to vote.
In addition to the presidential primary, there is also a
primary contest for the U.S. Senate seat from North Carolina. There are also state
and local offices on the ballot, including the governor’s, the lieutenant
governor’s, the auditor’s and the treasurer’s offices. At the local level,
school board, county commissioners and state legislative seats have multiple
people running for office.
There are many choices that influence decisions about our
neighborhoods, our children’s schools, our state and our country. One example
of local decision-making is Durham PreK. Voters’ support for access to publicly supported
preschool for all 4-year olds led elected leaders to invest in young
children. These leaders with bold goals
for children were voted in by citizens who cared. Your vote matters.
So go vote, take a friend or two with you, and wear your “I
voted” sticker proudly. Finally, be sure to encourage all of the early
childhood teachers and staff you know to join you in making a statement for our
children. We need to vote since the children we are passionate about cannot
vote. We need to vote for the future!
For more information about voting in North Carolina, click here.
For Child Care Services Association, quality child care means healthy, happy children. Children who start kindergarten ready to grow, learn and succeed. Children who become successful, healthy adults. On this Mother’s Day weekend, CCSA celebrates mothers and the other incredible women in our lives.
In NC, approximately 99 percent of child care teachers are women. That statistic is mirrored in early education centers across the U.S.; women make up a large percentage of our early childhood educators and have an invaluable impact on and connection to our young children. And that connection and stability brings advantages to young children through their school years and well into adulthood. For Sarah,* a middle-school teacher, the impact child care has had on her daughter, Helen,* is immeasurable. Here’s her Child Care Story:
“Helen has been in some form of child care since she was 6 months old–so for more than three and a half years now. When she was born, I was teaching middle school in Adelphi, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. My husband worked in D.C. for the federal government. Put simply, there was no way we could afford the cost of living in the D.C. metro area without both of our salaries, so I had to go back to work.
We ran into a lot of hurdles finding child care in D.C. There are child care centers there with years-long waiting lists; people get on the waiting list before they even get pregnant in some cases. My husband worked for a federal agency that had child care in the building, which would have been so ideal — except it had a long waiting list, and it was incredibly expensive (so expensive my salary would basically have covered the cost of that, and nothing more). Colleagues recommended a variety of places, but space and expense kept being issues. Finally a friend mentioned that a child had just left her son’s center, and things just fell into place. It was a licensed home-based child care center, and it was incredibly convenient to our house and my work. It was owned and run by a Colombian immigrant, and all of the employees were native Spanish speakers, so we had this unexpected blessing of giving Helen a language immersion experience from infancy.
Being in child care since she was a baby has been a great thing for Helen. She is a very social kid, and she loves the stimulation of being around other children (especially as an only child). She’s great at communicating and sharing and empathizing, and I fully credit her time in child care for those skills. Watching her this year in her preschool setting, I know she was much more prepared for that than some of the other children in her class who had never experienced school. Beyond that, child care has helped her be more independent from me and her dad. She doesn’t cry when we leave her with a babysitter and she feels confident to be with people besides us. And she’s learned a lot. She’s a smart kid who picks up everything she’s exposed to. Thanks to our great child care experiences, we have a 4-year-old who’s fluent in Spanish, an expert on butterfly metamorphosis, and quickly becoming a great little chef.
Child care has also helped Helen grow into a great kid. I’m biased, but I think she’s an extremely kind, thoughtful, intelligent, polite, and self-possessed child. I attribute the development of many of those qualities to her experiences at school. She also feels safe and loved at school, and as a parent, that’s exactly what I want for her.”
CCSA works to ensure that all children, regardless of their circumstances, have equal access to the same wonderful, supportive learning experience that Helen and her family have had. Through financial assistance for families that cannot afford quality care, free referral services to families seeking child care, technical assistance to child care businesses and educational scholarships and salary supplements to child care professionals through the TEACH Early Childhood® and Child Care WAGE$® programs, CCSA works with parents, teachers, and child care centers to put all our young children on a path toward health and happiness. Support that mission by giving to CCSA today.