California child care system collapsing under COVID-19: study

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, July 23, 2020
Adjust font size:

SAN FRANCISCO, July 22 (Xinhua) -- The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating economic and human impact on California child care centers, forcing hundreds of them to close while others remain open at the risk of illness to both children and staff, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley released on Wednesday.

Among more than 950 preschools and in-home sites surveyed by the campus's Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE), fully 25 percent are closed. Among those that remain open, enrollments have plunged, and many owners are going into debt to keep their centers open for families who depend on continued child care, said the study.

"As a result of the pandemic, in California and in the whole country, we can see that child care is critically important to our economy and to parents who have to work," said Lea Austin, CSCCE executive director. "But as child care collapses, so many other parts of our economy will be at risk."

San Francisco Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement Inc. (BAHIA) is a bilingual child development center founded in 1975 in West Berkeley. It has been closed since March.

According to its executive director Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, if the closures continue to climb, low-income families will be the hardest hit, when the parents have to work outside the home, and without child care, they risk losing their jobs, which means more risk of hunger and homelessness.

"It also means that child care workers themselves face rising insecurity," she added. "Our centers and our child care workers are essential to the economy, but the state and the federal government have only scratched the surface to meet their needs. It feels like we're invisible."

At full strength, California's centers and family homes care for close to a million children, according to CSCCE. Some 34,000 licensed child care facilities employ about 120,000 teachers and staff. Most are women of color, in positions that pay poverty-level wages for work that is highly important for a young child's development and safety.

The center conducted its first survey on the impact of COVID-19 in April. In the latest, more extensive, survey, 953 respondents detailed a system in crisis, with families and care providers required to navigate complex issues of education, economics and health.

According to the report, many providers are fearful that they or their families will be infected with the virus - and that fear drives many closures. But others feel they can't afford to shut down.

The study shows that eighty-five percent of child care facilities reduced enrollment, with the average number of students cut roughly in half. Seventy-seven percent lost income. And significant numbers of providers have missed rent or mortgage payments and used personal credit cards to cover expenses. Over 40 percent said they have, at times, been unable to pay themselves.

Even as revenues fall, 67 percent reported higher staffing costs to meet health and safety requirements, and eighty percent reported higher costs for sanitation and protective gear.

"This is just not going to be sustainable, long term," said Austin. "We are seeing a collapse. It's already begun, and I suspect it's only going to be magnified as we go forward." Enditem

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from