One of the most pressing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the widespread closures of schools and child care centers. The loss of these mainstays of daily life has been profoundly destabilizing across the country, affecting kids’ development and threatening to derail working mothers’ careers, even as workers in early childhood education and caregiving face job losses or health risks in addition to the low wages and lack of benefits they were already dealing with. As women of color make up a significant portion of the early childhood education and caregiving workforce, and are also more likely to struggle with finding child care regardless of the industry they work in, the child care crisis brought on by the pandemic has only exacerbated existing inequalities. In case you missed it, catch up on Prism’s coverage of child care challenges, centering on the groups most impacted.
Early childhood educator Shirley Torrence, who owns a five-star licensed child care center in North Carolina, said her center cared for over 30 children and was in the midst of expanding when the pandemic hit. Everything came to a stop, Torrence said, and she was forced to lay off employees as the number of children enrolled dwindled to 11. As the pandemic wore on, a family exposed the center to COVID-19.
The U.S. already faced a shortage of child care slots that left many families without anywhere to send their children, especially Black and brown and low-income families. Now, according to the Center for American Progress (CAP), national child care capacity may be cut in half permanently as a result of the widespread closures mandated by the pandemic.
“Together, African American and Hispanic early educators are overrepresented in roles that place their wages not only at the bottom of the early childhood workforce, but at the bottom of the entire U.S. labor market,” explain the authors of a white paper on racial wage gaps in early education, published by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE).
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