In the face of a health pandemic that has altered our lives in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, Washington, D.C. has persevered.
As someone who has been a part of the D.C. business community for two decades, I’m heartened to see the city’s resilience. While we still have a long way to go before life returns to normal, the COVID-19 emergency has served to highlight some compelling lessons that we must remember long after we’ve won the battle against the virus.
One of these lessons is understanding just how vital the work of child care providers is.
Child care providers are a core part of the infrastructure that keeps the District running. Providers furnish needed services for working families, including the children of first responders and healthcare professionals. Even during normal times, child care providers play a critical role in supporting working families in Washington and beyond.
In fact, a recent ReadyNation report showed just how profound the effects of a lack of affordable, high-quality child care can be on our economy. The report noted that there’s a national, infant-and-toddler child care crisis that costs our nation an incredible $57 billion per year. That figure comes from lost tax revenue, reduced productivity, and diminished wages for workers due to sacrifices and choices relating to child care options that harm career prospects.
But the child care crisis is a two-generation issue. Not only are current workers and businesses impacted, but, of course, the effects on our youngest are top-of-mind. Children who don’t have supportive, high-quality environments at a young age face the prospect of worse long-term educational and life outcomes. This risk is exacerbated with the pandemic, as stresses on families already facing challenges are dramatically increased, potentially leading to toxic stress levels and child trauma.
The stakes are especially high in the earliest years because of the irreplaceable time of brain development that children that age experience, with over a million new neural connections forming every second.
For these reasons and more, our current pandemic has helped to illustrate that safe, high-quality, affordable child care should be at the heart of the District’s economic agenda. Washington’s children benefit from early care and education that nurtures their minds and bodies, while parents can remain focused on their careers, secure in the knowledge that their children are safe, healthy, and learning.
The virus has also reminded us of the interconnectedness of our world. We now see in stark and sometimes harrowing terms that the health and well-being of one of us intimately interconnects to the health and well-being of us all. COVID-19 has also provided a sobering reminder of the fact that our society cannot function if parents struggle to find safe, affordable, high-quality child care for their children. Simply put, child care is an essential part of America’s economic infrastructure.
In recent weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically transformed our lives and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Many of us are struggling, many of us are scared, and many of us need help to make it through. However, the only way to fight the short- and long-term effects of the virus is to come together to confront this emergency head-on. We should be unified in our support of child care providers—providers that might not otherwise survive economically.
We must commit to maintaining the child care infrastructure now, so that the existing child care crisis isn’t worsened by our health emergency in the long term. Working parents, the business community, and our city need for this critical infrastructure to remain viable and strong so that, when D.C. is ready to go back to work, this vital support will still be there to protect and care for the most important thing in the world: our children.
Barbara B. Lang is Managing Principal and CEO at Lang Strategies, former President & CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce, and a member of ReadyNation.
Note: this blog post is provided by the author in an individual capacity, not as a company representation. Title/company is provided for informational purposes only.