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The uncontrolled surge of virus cases is crippling our already strained child care system

The pandemic has made clear what many experts had long warned: The system is broken and our economy is suffering.

Many states have lost as much as 10 percent of their day care slots during the pandemic. Source - Airman 1st Class Hunter Brady, Public Domain (CC0 1.0)
Many states have lost as much as 10 percent of their day care slots during the pandemic. Source - Airman 1st Class Hunter Brady, Public Domain (CC0 1.0)

For years, the child care business has limped along in a broken, uncertain market, with low wages for workers but high costs for consumers. But now, the pandemic has made clear what many experts had long warned: The system is broken and our economy is suffering.

Millions of parents are now stuck in an excruciating limbo during a surge of Omicron cases, forced to wrestle with daycare closures and child care crises as the rest of the world appears eager to move on.

The rise in virus cases has made life especially complicated for parents of children under the age of five. Tests are hard to come by, and daycare providers are already strained. 

The not-for-profit Child Care Aware of America estimates that nearly 10 percent of licensed child care programs nationally have permanently closed since the pandemic began. That’s based on its tally of nearly 16,000 shuttered centers and in-home daycares in 37 states between December 2019 and March 2021.

To make matters worse, there are roughly 110,000 fewer people working in child care now compared with February 2020, according to research from the University of California, Berkeley.

In Connecticut, child care providers said Monday the state needs additional federal resources to help address the industry’s longstanding staffing challenges, which have been impacted by the uptick in COVID-19 cases and the overall labor shortage.

David Morgan, president, and CEO of TEAM Inc., a Waterbury area anti-poverty agency, during a virtual news conference with Gov. Ned Lamont and other officials, said, “We are definitely at a labor shortage and staffing crisis that really needs significant federal investment.”

“We right now have a funding model that compromises fiscal solvency and sustainability of child care.” Morgan said parents and families cannot afford to pay more for child care, a service he and others said is needed to ensure the state’s economy continues to rebound as more people get back to work.

The bottom line in all this is the realization that many parents, particularly women, are being forced to make a very difficult decision. No parent should ever have to choose between a job or their children.

Vaccines, a key part of the federal response to the pandemic, have proven challenging to get right for young children. While shots are already available for those 5 and older, parents of children 4 and younger may have to wait months more for a vaccine that works.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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