As the U.S. economy starts a reopening process, the critical need for early care and education is clear. Words like essential and infrastructure are used routinely to describe this field and its utility. At the same time, child care providers are experiencing whiplash as things change for them daily. Surveys from advocates and government bodies have been sent out weekly to understand what they might need during the pandemic. Additionally, new rules from regulatory bodies have been routinely issued. Grants available to this field come with complicated application and reporting processes. Not to mention, operating during a pandemic comes with incredible responsibility, fear, and anxiety. While many agencies are tracking things like who is open, closed, needs supplies, etc., the actual stories from providers themselves are hidden. Stories of the hardships like uncertainty, frustration, sickness, and financial worry. And, stories exemplifying the strength, tenacity, and humanity of this field.
While child care providers are experiencing this pandemic as individuals, they are also taking in the experiences of the children and families they serve. The early education field requires an intimate connection with clients. In regular times, child care providers often take on roles similar to social workers, therapist, friend, mediator, etc., in addition to the incredibly hard work of caring for and educating young children. During the pandemic, these roles have expanded in unbelievable ways.
Over the next two months, through a series of blog posts, I will explore the hidden stories from this field. Through confidential interviews, various social media communications, and advocacy forums, I will lift up the challenges, needs, fears, hopes, and future plans of our essential workforce during the pandemic. I will highlight needs that agencies and advocates could consider in creating a better support system for future crises. While I’m not sure where this exploration will take me, my overarching goal is to bring to the surface the topics that are not well understood or acknowledged by society as child care providers continue to work through the pandemic.
Continue Reading: Part 2: Impossible Choices