Child Care Providers Responding to COVID-19
The economic and public health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are monumental for the early care and education community. This study of child care providers assesses the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on child care programs and the livelihood and wellbeing of child care and early education providers. The study not only documents the impact of the pandemic on child care programs and providers but also examines the roll-out of new federal and state emergency assistance and identifies useful strategies that small businesses are pursuing to maintain their programs and help their staff and clients during this difficult time. Since the beginning of the pandemic, some providers have been on the front lines caring for the children of essential workers, while others have been furloughed or laid off and there has been new federal and state emergency assistance made available to small businesses to support early care and education staff and their families. There have also been modifications to existing public benefits for workers who have lost their jobs during this time. Although the pandemic continues, increasing numbers of child care programs are reopening at a broader scale. As more providers come back to work, they resume the care and education of our children, serving and supporting families, and putting themselves and their own families at increased health risk. Directors and owners are refitting their programs to meet new public health guidelines and the new realities facing their clientele. Little is known about the experiences of providers in this new environment.
The study addresses the following research questions:
- How have child care programs made decisions about staying open or closing (or reopening after closure) during the pandemic? Do they have access to necessary information to make informed decisions?
- Do child care center directors and family child care providers know about the emergency assistance available, are they accessing it, and what are the barriers to access they are experiencing? How are these barriers being addressed over time?
- How are program owners/directors responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, both from an operational and a financial point of view? What kinds of changes have they made to the care they provide (if still open)? How are families, staff, and children responding to these changes?
- How have programs experienced the pandemic overtime, especially since the Stay-at-Home order was issued in March? What are their plans moving forward?
To answer these questions, the study is conducting interviews with a sample of child care program owners/directors in centers and family child care homes in Cook County and the Champaign-Urbana region. The sample is diverse in terms of its geography, size, quality-rating, CCAP-reliance, and for-profit/not-for-profit status.
Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this research is a collaboration between the University of Chicago and Illinois Action for Children; Co-Principal Investigators Julia Henly, PhD and David Alexander, PhD, with support from Robert Hughes, PhD, and Brenda Eastham of the Child Care Resource Service (CCRS).