With restricted assist, Black and Latino-owned youngster care facilities face threat of closing completely

When Mary De La Rosa closed her toddler and preschool program in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, she expected that one day she would take care of the 14 children again. In the end, however, Creative Explorers closed down for good.

The families had to look for other care options – and the three teachers had to apply for unemployment benefits.

“We kept trying to find a way,” said De La Rosa, who is of Mexican and Egyptian descent. “But at some point we realized that there wasn’t one.”

The story of De La Rosa’s program in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles is repeated across the country as the impact of the pandemic has hit childcare and the black and Latino owned centers in an industry that has long relied on color providers , hit disproportionately.

Policy experts say the U.S. spends a small fraction of federal funding on childcare compared to other developed nations, compounded by COVID-19. Soon, almost half of U.S. daycare could be lost, according to the Center for American Progress.

“Before the pandemic, the childcare system was broken.” said Lynette Fraga, CEO of Child Care Aware of America. “Now it’s broken.”

Even before the coronavirus, many parents were faced with an impossible choice – to look after their children or to earn a living. However, the effects of COVID-19 on the system have worsened, Fraga says, and its effects can lead to “deserts for childcare,” preventing parents from returning to work, falling incomes and taking away early childhood education opportunities that are available to them A child’s development are vital.

According to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, the U.S. childcare industry has long relied on Black and Latin American women, with women of skin color making up 40% of their workforce. These women are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. A July survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children found that half of minority-owned childcare companies expect permanent closure without additional support.

“The pandemic has shown how little access many of these women have for support,” said Fraga. “It’s sharpened and highlights the inequalities that we always knew existed here.”

Economic disparities in the childcare industry raced back long before COVID-19, said Lea Austin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Employment in Childcare.

Black early childhood educators earn an average of $ 0.78 less per hour than white early childhood educators, according to the center. While 15% of white women in childcare live below the poverty line, the poverty rate for black and Latin American childcare workers is 23% and 22%, respectively, according to a 2017 analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.

“They earn lower wages for the exact same job,” Austin said.

Professional slavery, rooted in slavery, has historically been viewed as the domain of women of color, says Shana Bartley, director of community partnerships at the National Women’s Law Center. As a result, childcare is underrated due to cultural biases, suggesting that the work of women of color is of less value.

“Our childcare system has its roots in slavery, when women who were enslaved and forced to care for other people’s children did so without pay,” she said. “Later these domestic jobs were among the only ones available to black women and other women of color. Since we have these outdated systems and cultural prejudices based on sexism and racism, we are unwilling to properly evaluate these women and their work. “

This undervaluation was sustained by measures such as the Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938, which guaranteed minimum wages and standardized working hours but excluded domestic workers. Even today, according to Bartley, childcare workers are less supported by Farben because they have less access to federal funding and less assistance from banks to navigate through licenses, loans, and grants.

Angelique Marshall, director of Ms. P’s daycare center, is fortunate that her center is still open to care for children with special needs in the Washington, DC area, especially with other Black and Latino owned centers nearby.

Marshall, who is black, serves half the children she used to have. Their emergency supplies bought cleaning and personal protective equipment, and operating costs have more than doubled.

“We don’t even make money,” she said. “It’s all about survival.”

Marshall said she survived mostly on loans and grants. However, the process is arduous and requires her to file documents, log expenses, save receipts, and write reports. She said paint suppliers don’t have the resources and information they need to navigate grant applications and government agencies.

“Nobody tells us how to do that,” she said. “We’ll find out for ourselves. We have to take care of ourselves and nobody seems to care. “

Maria Potts, director of Kids World in Falls Church, Virginia, also relies on grants and PPP loans. With only seven of the original 14 children she still had in her program, Potts laid off three assistants and worked 70-hour weeks.

It goes through three times as much paper towels, disinfectant, and bleach. Much of their scholarship goes towards PPE and cleaning products.

“Without the paycheck protection plan, we probably wouldn’t have survived,” said Potts, who is Latina.

Many of their colleagues in the Hispanic Association for Child Care in Northern Virginia have had to close. Potts has helped many of the remaining individuals apply for scholarships. She says language barriers prevent many Spanish-speaking childcare workers from getting access to grants and support.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed two laws in July – the Childcare Act is Essential and the Childcare Act to Boom the Economy – aimed at stabilizing the childcare industry during the pandemic and creating a $ 50 billion fund for the childcare sector.

Christine Johnson-Staub, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Legal and Social Policy, sees the further development of this legislation only as a first step.

Johnson-Staub, who has been in childcare policy for three decades, said workers need a hazard payment and funds for cleaning supplies and PPE. She said federal dollars should be tracked to ensure they are distributed fairly, and guidelines should support fair pay and job quality for child carers of color.

Austin recommends shifting childcare costs from individual families and providers. With parents bearing most of the childcare costs, centers in low-income color communities are disadvantaged.

“We don’t tell students they can’t go to third grade if they can’t pay for it,” she said. “And we don’t tell third grade teachers that they are paid based on what their students can afford. Why is this okay for child carers? “

Policy changes did not come soon enough to save the center of De La Rosa. After sending her parents a letter announcing the closure, Katie Nance was so devastated that she cried. Nance’s 5-year-old daughter Lily had been on the program for nearly two years. According to Nance, the lessons De La Rosa taught Lily, as well as the perspective she provided as a Latina teacher, were critical to her growth.

Today De La Rosa’s house feels empty and quiet. She misses the children’s laughter. Her husband’s job helped keep her family alive, but the loss of the business forced her to rethink her budget. It has had other effects as well – some intangible, but just as real.

“It was like mourning someone,” said De La Rosa. “This school was such a big part of me and then suddenly it was gone.”

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