Kathleen Growden has been teaching at Harpeth Heights Weekday Preschool in Nashville, Tennessee for 18 years now. That is, she was teaching there before the child care center had to close its doors at the start of the pandemic back in March.
Nearly 6 months later, Harpeth Heights Weekday Preschool hasn’t been able to reopen yet. Like many other child care centers, the facility is at risk of never being able to welcome kids and families back.
“I had no clue that it would be the last time I stepped foot in my classroom for 6 months,” said Kathleen. “I prepped it for spring break, grabbed the kids’ backpacks that had been left so I could deliver them to families, and let the door close behind me.”
Kathleen said things started to dismantle after schools began announcing that they wouldn’t reopen for the 2019-2020 school year. She said she’s unsure how many families are left in their program.
“Our center lost A LOT of money during the shutdown…The uncertainty of when or if we will reopen is incredibly stressful,” said Kathleen.
According to a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), 40% of child care centers in the U.S. say they will be forced to shut down if they don’t receive additional public assistance. Without significant help, estimates suggest we might lose as many as 4.5 million child care slots. And if child care centers aren’t able to survive the pandemic that means one thing: millions of parents with young kids won’t be able to return to work. Needless to say, child care is an absolutely critical part of the economy.
Ashley Bishop is a parent and in-home child care provider in Newton, Iowa, who had no choice but to reopen her child care facility after 5 months in order to financially support her family.
“As much as I love doing [child care] and love my kids and families, the world we live in is just nerve racking,” said Ashley. “We are important and we have our own families to keep safe. The stress is real and the hardest thing in the world is figuring out what’s best for your family.”
The child care crisis has disproportionately impacted working women, like Ashley, who have had to make the difficult choice of leaving the workforce or caring for their family. We know both historically and especially during this pandemic era, mothers are taking on the majority of housework, child care, and home schooling responsibilities. Without a functioning child care system that can operate safely the impact on women trying to balance work and family life is going to be felt in the months and years to come. As Ashley shared with us, there’s only so much she can do to keep her family safe. Ultimately, reopening her business was a decision she had to make.
Sunshine Academy in Denver, Colorado also had to shut down during the pandemic, but reopened after 3 months. Fatin Ahmad, Director at Sunshine Academy said since reopening, enrollment has been extremely low. Their center is not at full capacity because children and families are not showing up as much as they did before the pandemic hit.
“We are only at 30% capacity after the pandemic started,” said Fatin. “Before the pandemic we were at full capacity to the point we had a waiting list.”
Fatin also said that in order to make ends meet, there needs to be more financial support for child care providers at the state and federal level. In a recent poll SCAN conducted with Child Care Aware, 87% of voters support providing federal assistance during the crisis to ensure child care providers are able to cover expenses like rent and utilities. That’s a large majority of voters across the political spectrum!
The call for help is loud and clear. Child care providers and teachers have been stretched thin over the last few months. Before it’s too late for many other child care providers, we must continue to advocate for increased investments toward the child care industry. For child care providers like Kathleen, Ashley and Fatin, we must remember these essential workers desperately need our help today.