Numbers in the article have been updated to reflect additional survey responses as of October 6, 2023.
Ahead of the child care funding cliff, Community Change conducted a survey of their Childcare Changemakers, a network of child care providers and parents who are organizing to win a 21st century child care system. As of October 6, 463 people have responded from across the country, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia. The majority of suveytakers identified as people of color, with 37 percent Hispanic/Latino, 32 percent white, and 23 percent African American/Black. Almost all, 443 respondents, identified as women.
They will continue to collect survey responses over the next few weeks. So far, results show emerging trends in the possible impacts of Congress failing to pass emergency funds to stabilize the child care sector.
Almost a third of respondents (32 percent) said they’d be at risk of closing their centers, or that stabilization grants would help them keep their doors open. Many of these providers said they live in child care deserts, so for parents there are already a lack of affordable options.
Grace, a childcare provider in Tennessee who received stabilization grant funding said, “Because of the grant we received, we were able to pay our teachers a livable wage, hire more qualified and capable individuals, and provide a better quality of care and open two additional classrooms to make up for the childcare desert we are in.”
But they are still not turning a profit and they’ve had to pass additional cost burdens on to parents. If she’s forced to close without additional funds, she said the teachers she only recently was able to provide healthcare benefits, “Will be out of their jobs and have to find new jobs, most likely forcing them to go back to working 2-3 jobs just to survive.”
37 percent of respondents said without stabilization grants, they’d have to cut back on staff pay, cut back on hours, or even let childcare workers go to make ends meet. That means they’ll be serving fewer families, causing a ripple effect for parents who might have to cut back on their own work hours to care for their children.
For some providers, the first staff to go would be assistants who provide them relief to go to doctor’s appointments or pick up their own children from school. For others, it’s seasoned early educators that they’ll risk losing.
“I can no longer afford an assistant so going to doctor appointments for myself or with my disabled grown daughter is near impossible. To do so, I must close for the day which impacts several families,” said Janet Prince who owns a home-based child care program in Oklahoma.
The stabilization grants Jamie Bitton received “Allowed me to increase wages significantly and create a family and culture of caring providers to work together.” Bitton, who owns a childcare program in Utah, said she increased workers’ pay from $9 to $15 an hour, which, she notes, is still not enough to live comfortably off of.
Jennifer Trippett, who runs one of the larger childcare centers in West Virginia, said providers are facing competition from higher-paying jobs at Walmart and staffing is nearly impossible.
17 percent of respondents said they will likely have to raise tuition or other fees parents pay when stabilization grants run dry. That means for many low-income families, child care will be out of reach.
Lakisha, a parent in California where several of the providers surveyed said they’d potentially face closing their doors without stabilization funds, said “I feel that I am one step away from not being able to afford child care. I am waiting to get assistance. I have been waiting for one year now.” Without child care she said she wouldn’t be able to work.
Natalie, an early childhood educator in Colorado, put it well: “The choice to not extend this support will have far-reaching consequences, the scars of which will be borne by future generations.”
Other trends we saw were that stabilization grants allowed providers to pay themselves a salary or get health insurance for the first time. I was especially struck by those who mentioned they’d been providing quality care for decades and are reaching retirement age without a drop in the nest egg.
“I have been doing daycare for 22 years and stay struggling. We deserve the money. We work for long hours with no benefits,” said Jalila Hanafi, a provider in California.
“I was able to pay myself for the first time in 8 years,” said Kristan Lawson, a provider in Oklahoma. Her message to Congress: “For once, invest in our children and their future, unapologetically.”
For most of the respondents, the impacts were overlapping. For example, having to let go of a teacher or assistant meant they’d also have fewer spots open for kids. Or with stabilization grants folks were able to raise wages, but without them, that extra cost will likely be passed on to parents. Some folks who added new elements to their education programs, like one provider in Alabama who added a STEM table, worry they’ll have to backtrack on those improvements.
“It’s a stressful situation. When these funds dry up, it will have a ripple effect. Providers will close. Childcare workers will be unemployed,” said Desiree, the owner of a home-based program in New York. It was a sentiment seen over and over in the survey results.
America Alcantar, an early educator in California wants to tell Congress, “We did our part when the state needed us during COVID, now do your part on giving us the budget we deserve.”