Childcare is Essential to the City’s Recovery

In March when we entered our first shelter-in-place and San Francisco was transformed overnight from a vibrant metropolis to a ghost town, I was afraid. I wanted to wrap myself in a warm blanket, hunker in, unplug my phone, order takeout and pretend I was on a much-needed vacation.

I had been recovering from a horrible flu for months. Still tired all the time, I taught three college courses, worked all day with preschoolers, and found time to advocate for early childhood education (ECE) and family childcare while serving on dissertation committees and drafting a book chapter about colorism. When I finally had the courage to check my email, I had hundreds of messages from frightened people just like me—community partners all trying to steady the ship and navigate a course through uncharted waters.

There were public health guidelines that changed so rapidly it was hard to keep up. Initially published only in English, these guidelines were eventually translated by community agencies and network leaders to a workforce unsure of how to stay safe and socially distanced while changing diapers.

With no guarantee of funding, educators maintained their connections to children through virtual circle time and sing-along sessions so that parents who had transformed a portion of their living spaces into office-classrooms could work from home. A few of us kept our doors open for the children of essential workers, at great risk to our own safety and the safety of our families.

Childcare programs that served subsidized children were initially fully funded, but those who served a majority or all private pay families recognized that as the month came to an end, so would their income. Hard decisions were made whether to keep already collected parent fees despite closure, or lay-off teachers. With the limited State and Federal programs, childcare educators — mostly small operators without HR support, found it near impossible to navigate unemployment claims, PPP loans and small business emergency grants, especially those for whom English was not their first language.

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