Updated: Sep 9, 2021
The pandemic has created havoc for an industry that significantly contributes to the economic well-being of our region.
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in its 2020 "Holding on Until Help Comes" study, the crisis was devastating to the early childhood industry. The study, which included more than 5,000 child care providers, indicated only 18% of centers felt confident they would be able to stay open past a year without financial support. The impact was especially detrimental to those serving low-income communities, including families receiving child care subsidies.
Fast forward to May 2021. In a Bipartisan Policy Center and Morning Consult survey of 800 households with children, only 29% of parents reported the child care arrangement they had at the start of the pandemic was open without any changes to hours or capacity. They also reported that 19% of programs were open with limited hours, and 16% were open with limited spaces. In an industry that was struggling to respond during a pandemic, these businesses now face serious recovery challenges.
Though these are national results, we're hearing the same challenges in Hampton Roads. Often, the greatest impact is on the centers that serve parents with missed or cut hours at work, leaving them unable afford child care. The parents often have to rely on relatives to provide care.
When we focus on addressing why our region needs quality child care, we hopefully will swell the number of people advocating for change. We've identified three key reasons that Hampton Roads needs quality child care. Today's blog will focus on the first:
Key Reason 1: High-quality early childhood programs move us toward greater economic equity.
According to the Council for a Strong America's report "Building the Pipeline for Virginia’s Workforce of Tomorrow," the average annual cost of child care for an infant in a Virginia center is $14,560—more expensive than public four-year college tuition ($13,490).
Many Virginia parents simply can’t afford to put their children in our child care centers. Yet evidence strongly indicates that children—especially those from low-income families—benefit both cognitively and socially/behaviorally, from high-quality preschool. Therefore, ensuring their access to early childhood education helps close the achievement and opportunity gap between income groups.
Equity should be a key initiative of business and workforce development leaders. Having access to not just “daycare,” but looking at the early years as an investment in education, is a priority in many ways. When children ages 1-5 do not have access to a curriculum that supports the appropriate mental and emotional growth they need, the impact on our communities will continue to be a burden. The value extends to the home, as parents with children in high-quality preschool programs spend more time in mentally stimulating activities with their children at home.
In short, investing in a healthy early childhood industry creates equity among families, so that children from every background can all receive quality preschool and start school prepared for success.