Strengthening Child Care and Early Education: Learning from COVID-19

Strengthening Child Care and Early Education: Learning from COVID-19

The United States is an outlier among developed nations when it comes to supporting working families. Unlike other advanced economies, we offer no national public paid family leave, no publicly supported universal childcare, no requirements that employers offer flexible work and schedule control. Researchers and advocates have long lamented we don’t have these policies because the constituents who need them most – parents – are too stressed and busy to organize and demand them. Has COVID-19 changed that?

Political pundits have long insisted that care issues like childcare, elder care and paid and unpaid caregiving are not “bread and butter” economic issues that move voters or swing elections. Will that change in this unprecedented time of COVID-19? Are voters beginning to see that care work is no longer just “women’s work,” but central to a functioning economy? And what difference could that make on Nov. 3? Host Brigid Schulte is joined by Abby McCloskey and other guests on this episode of Crisis Conversations.

A funders collaborative in Washington, D.C. came together in response to COVID-19 to create a new $1 million fund to provide four months of sustained support for 115 licensed home-based child care programs and small child care centers. We interviewed Marica Cox Mitchell who is the Director of Early Learning for the Bainum Family Foundation and was deeply involved in conceiving the reopening fund.

Schools, summer camps and childcare centers are closed — and many may not reopen until next year. How are parents supposed to manage work, childcare and homeschooling? The childcare crisis is about to become even more acute, as many parents who lost their jobs due to the pandemic have already exhausted the temporary 12-week paid leave Congress passed in early spring. What will it take to build a truly high-quality, universal system that benefits everyone? On this episode of the Crisis Conversations podcast, we take on these questions and hear from host Brigid Schulte, parents and experts.

The debate about reopening schools this fall has exploded across the nation with new pressure from the Trump administration, which has threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t fully open for in-person classes. We know in-person learning is certainly optimal if schools successfully implement social-distancing strategies to protect students and teachers. But as education leaders move in that direction, they should build on what science tells us about child development and learning to ensure that students get what they need.

Jahdziah St. Julien sat down -virtually- with Dr. Sonya Michel to talk about the federal government’s response to the need for child care during an earlier crisis - World War II - and what we can learn as we navigate the coronavirus pandemic and respond to an even greater need for child care.

Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs, first established in 1969, provide high-quality early learning experiences for children from birth through age five. But now due to COVID-19, over 90 percent of Head Start programs have temporarily closed since the pandemic began. Read Elise Franchino's blog to learn about how this already vulnerable population is coping with the effect of the virus.

New America's Better Life Lab discussed how the coronavirus pandemic is straining an already fragile child care system. The crisis is showing clearly how central child care is to a functioning economy and society. How are parents coping? How are early care educators, providers and care workers surviving? How do we build a better child care system for the future? We’ll hear from care workers, providers, parents and Lillian Mongeau, west coast bureau chief of the Hechinger Report and author of "Our Fragile Childcare “System” may be about to shatter.”

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