As child care centers and schools closed at the height of the pandemic, parents were left balancing work and caretaking responsibilities while also navigating economic uncertainty.
But as child care centers reopen, some families appear slow to enroll their children.
The pandemic hit child care centers' bottom line and affected the employees who work at them — many of whom are women of color.
April Janney, president and CEO of Illinois Action for Children, can list the impacts COVID-19 has had on providers: “Attendance and enrollment decreasing, overall loss of employment for those parents who had to leave work and for child care providers who had staff who had to leave. The overall employment loss, but then being at home for those parents who could work from home, having to juggle parenting, teaching and working remotely became a big challenge.”
The Carole Robertson Center for Learning offers early childhood development and youth programs and operates across Chicago with two locations on the West Side.
“COVID exposed existing vulnerabilities and historic systemic inequities,” said Sonja Crum Knight, vice president of programs and impact at Carole Robertson Center for Learning. “Our staff are part and parcel of the communities we serve. They come from those communities, so they were deeply impacted as were our families.”
Crum Knight said many of the families the center serves include essential workers, so reopening quickly was a priority.
During the initial shutdown, the organization provided virtual programs to families, and it reopened its buildings June. Throughout the pandemic, it held weekly distribution days, offering essential supplies and learning materials to its families.
This comes as some child care and early childhood development centers are seeing lower enrollment numbers as they reopen, Janney said.
“In some cases a lot of parents are nervous about health concerns with exposing their children and their children coming back to their households and maybe exposing them and people they have to care for in their homes, but also teachers are as concerned about their health and the exposure that may happen, and (the impact it) may have on their families as well. So there’s that nervousness, that tension about keeping everyone safe,” Janney said.