Families are in a child care conundrum.What do you do with your children who are out of school for an undetermined amount of weeks? What do you to ensure you are not exposing your children and the community to the dreaded COVID-19? What do you when you live paycheck to paycheck to provide for your family?
Child care providers are in a similar conundrum. What do they do to keep the children in their care and educators from spreading disease? What do they do to help the families reaching out for care, including for additional school-age children? What will they do to ensure that tuition payments continue to come in so that they can pay staff and keep on the lights?
While there are many moral and ethical complications in this conundrum, our state leaders and state and federal elected officials do have tools to help to mitigate and manage the stresses on families.
Change payment practices so that providers receiving state and federal payments on behalf of disadvantaged families can continue to have a source of income. This would mean to change practice to ensure providers are paid while children are absent and allow families to maintain eligibility while programs are closed.
Provide guidance and assistance to families seeking care and serving as “essential personnel”. This can be advice for families on how to navigate the landscape to find providers who are trained to meet appropriate health and safety standards to curb the spread of disease. As well as guidance to assess the most appropriate providers to meet their needs in both center-based care and family day homes.
Congress should act to:
Ensure there is an appropriate federal paid family leave policy for all working families that must take off from their jobs during this time of social distancing.
Provide additional assistance to the child care business sector to help ensure that programs do not face long-term financial hardship and can remain open once families return to work.
Virginia and most states have prioritized the health and safety of their school-age children by closing schools. This is a difficult choice for many but the right thing to do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve”. Shouldn’t we expect the same protection for the youngest children in care and their educators?