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On-going challenges of the Pandemic

  • 1.  On-going challenges of the Pandemic

    Posted 19 days ago
    Hello to everyone,

    Lately on hello, I have been seeing the same kinds of threads that I used to see prior to the pandemic that were focused on changes and improvements that needed to be made to the childcare industry such as what are best practices for classrooms, what are some good books for different age groups, clinical findings on child development, etc., etc.  All of these things are fine and I'm sure for many it is helpful information, however it almost makes it seem like the Pandemic is over and we have moved on to the same old conversations that we were having before and less of a focus on the fact that there are still major challenges facing childcare providers.  I am just wondering if other providers, directors and owners are feeling as frustrated as I am, that overall things do not seem to be improving or that the general public and people that advocate for ECE have a clue as to just how bad things are right now.

    We continue to have major staffing issues to the point that on some days we have had to close early because we knew that we were not going to have enough afternoon staff to stay open until 6:30 so we closed at 4:00.  For one of our after-school programs that has been closed for over a year, we were unable to find any staff to open the program in August, so after 18 years of having that license, the State made us submit a permanent closure status and return our license.  For our other locations that have remained open, we are still operating at around 50-60% when we would normally be at 80-90% of our capacity by this time of the year.

    It's all fine and good to continue to talk about the changes and upgrades that need to be made to childcare, but none of that will make a difference if we can't keep the doors open now.  Without an adequate labor force for childcare, all other discussions are a mute point at this time.

    Again, just wondering if anyone else is feeling the same frustrations or has found any solutions to get us past the pandemic.

    Tim Kaminski

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    Tim Kaminski
    Director/Owner
    Gingerbread Kids Academy
    Richmond TX
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  • 2.  RE: On-going challenges of the Pandemic

    Posted 18 days ago
    We are having the same struggles with staffing.  I have been covering the classrooms, as a lead teacher on and off since 2019.  Which is around the time that I think that the staffing issue started in the child care field.  I am working well over 60 hours a week plus weekends to take care of my own work as a director.  Our center, I feel has been interviewing and hiring pretty consistently since then.  I am on the verge of completely leaving the field due to this.  There doesn't seem to be any help on the horizon, from anywhere.

    I have noticed the same thing on Hello.  I am glad that there is a support group for early childhood, but I feel that child care gets left out of the conversation again and again.  Usually, child care is the villain of the early childhood field.  If we are such an important part of society, then why is there no help for the staff and centers.  The focus is always on making it more affordable for families.  Staff in the childcare field work long hours, deal with behavior problems, etc., with little to no support from families or other resources. The majority of our children are here an average of 10 hours a day.  We are only open 11.5 hours.

    Early childhood programs that are part of a larger elementary school system or private schools have those resources.  Those of us working in a privately owned facility do not have those types of luxuries.

    Our state just turned over monitoring of the child care field to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  They have no experience in working with child care and are having a difficult time in relating to centers.  In addition to that, they are short staffed.  We have been waiting on our renewal inspection since June.  Our license "expired" in September.  We have spoken to other centers and this is happening to them also.

    I apologize for rambling...thank you for allowing me to vent.

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    Cynthia Bohrer
    Director
    Kids International Early Childhood Education Cente
    Ellisville MO
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  • 3.  RE: On-going challenges of the Pandemic

    Posted 18 days ago
    Sorry to hear you're having these challenges, Tim. As a childcare worker, I can assure you that many people are leaving this field because of some of the things you described--being expected to stay late and work long hours, often for low pay and dealing with behavior issues with little or no support. The first question you should ask is if the compensation you are offering truly reflects the work being done. Unfortunately as an owner, sometimes you might have to collect a bit less profit in order to keep your doors open, but the people running your centers and doing all the work to keep them running really should be making more money than someone who simply "owns" the center. Do you also cover in classrooms to keep them open instead of closing early? This issue of childcare workers leaving the field is never going to go away. You will never find the staff you need until you pay a fair salary for the job. This growing labor movement is happening across the country, and not just in the field of early childhood. Additional suggestions are closing the week between Christmas and New Years (and paying your staff for this week) and offering more flexible schedules and more paid time off. I know many childcare workers and they all feel mistreated and exploited. We love the work we do, but are tired of being seen as babysitters, and being paid poverty level salaries. This issue will never go away until we fundamentally change the way we view childcare, and start viewing it as education and not a for-profit business.

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    Amy Dawson
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  • 4.  RE: On-going challenges of the Pandemic

    Posted 17 days ago
    Yes, staffing is more difficult for childcare but even public school systems that pay much larger salaries are having trouble recruiting and hiring teachers and assistant teachers.

    This situation with schools is some of the fallout from the Pandemic, which is still ongoing, as well as the terrible polarization in Congress. The polarization of Congress and the extreme difficulty the President is having with members of Congress to invest in the social safety net, which includes childcare and universal Prek , is sad and bad for children and our economy. I am concerned that these issues will be excised from the bill that is sitting alongside the Infrastructure bill that has already been passed by the Senate.

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    Nora Krieger, PhD
    Associate Professor Emerita/Past Chair NJEEPRE
    Bloomfield College/NJ Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia
    Highland Park, NJ
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  • 5.  RE: On-going challenges of the Pandemic

    Posted 18 days ago
    Hi Amy,

    Thank you for your response.  Most of our staff are being paid between $12.00-$15.00 per hour and they get a week of vacation each year plus two weeks of paid holidays per year.  As an owner, I have covered classrooms, driven the vans for after-school pick ups, stay most days until at least 7:00 or 7:30 and worst at least 6 hours on Saturday or Sunday, to get caught up for the next week.  For independent operators, there is very little profit in childcare, so owners are not making as much money as you may think.  Payroll alone takes up at least 60% of the revenues that are made before any of the bills or paid.  Not to mention the huge taxes that are paid on top of that.

    Yes, all childcare workers should be paid much more than they are being paid now, and the public or the government should be willing to pay much more for childcare than they are willing to pay now.  If childcare centers charged what they needed to in order to offer higher pay and benefits to their staff, they would need to charge at least $300.00 to $400.00 per week per child.  There is no way most families in America could afford to pay that amount for one child must less two.  However that is the reality of what it will take to pay everyone $15.00 an hour or higher, plus all the other benefits childcare workers deserve.

    Childcare owners cannot solve this problem on their own and even if the government agrees to help families pay for higher childcare it will still take at least two to three years to get something in place once the government makes that decision.

    Hopefully something positive will happen before the end of the year.

    Sincerely,

    Tim Kaminski

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    Tim Kaminski
    Director/Owner
    Gingerbread Kids Academy
    Richmond TX
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  • 6.  RE: On-going challenges of the Pandemic

    Posted 17 days ago
    Thank you.  I agree and don't agree with this.  I am not sure that child care incentives for families is going to help child care centers find staff.  Besides the low pay, child care centers deal with a variety of issues such as behavior problems with children, etc.  Our center offers higher starting salaries and benefits, but that is still not helping.  Offering more services for people to stay home is not helpful for any field that is suffering right now in search of employees.  It is a vicious circle and I am not sure that there will be any resolution soon.  There is no support for the child care centers.

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    Cynthia Bohrer
    Director
    Kids International Early Childhood Education Cente
    Ellisville MO
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  • 7.  RE: On-going challenges of the Pandemic

    Posted 17 days ago
    Dear Cynthia:

    My understanding is that the bill both has a childcare tax credit but also has money to help childcare centers. Yes, if all the second infrastructure bill has is support for parents through a tax credit, that is not enough.

    Since this bill has no support from one side of the aisle and is under attack from two Senators from the other side, I believe you are right in the sense that the original bill, which had money for supporting salaries in childcare is being whittled away in order to get the bill passed at all. It still has money for facilities, which is good and it appears the childcare tax credit is still in the bill, another good. I still think we, in the EC field, need to advocate for including the money that was originally in the bill that would add salary supports. I would suggest that each of us let our Congress people know that supporting the larger outlay or at least keeping all the parts that affect childcare should stay in the bill.

    The outlay of money to support families earlier in the pandemic has ended. One problem is that people appear to be reassessing where they work and what they should now do. Many families have been incredibly disrupted from the effects of the Pandemic. I read today that 122,000 children have lost their primary caregiver from death during the Pandemic. I would bet that the number is actually higher than that. I wonder how many children lost both their parents from the Pandemic.

    The United States is basically the only first world/industrialized country that does not have adequate government support for early childhood and childcare.

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    Nora Krieger, PhD
    Associate Professor Emerita/Past Chair NJEEPRE
    Bloomfield College/NJ Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia
    Highland Park, NJ
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  • 8.  RE: On-going challenges of the Pandemic

    Posted 17 days ago
    I am not sure that this will help the centers obtain more staff.  Putting money out to offer applicants more money is not working to lure applicants.  We are a small, privately owned center.  I am not sure that the money will make it to were it needs to be and the money will not help keep people in the field.  This is a difficult field and is getting more so.

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    Cynthia Bohrer
    Director
    Kids International Early Childhood Education Cente
    Ellisville MO
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