Over the last few months, everything has been turned upside down, including child care. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption for all early childhood caregivers, from those working in centers to those working out of homes. To better understand the situation, our team surveyed hundreds of people working with young children – including teachers, family child care providers, and center directors — to better understand how they have and will continue to adapt to protect the wellbeing of their children and staff during the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s what we found:
Looking at the data, these trends emerge:
Child care providers are feeling uncertainty and fear.
- Child care providers report that they and the families they serve are feeling fear in many forms: emotional, health, and economic. We know emotional security and responsive caregiving is critical to young children’s healthy development. It’s clear from the survey comments that child care providers are working hard every day to provide this emotional security to staff, children, and families in any way that they can.
- Teacher job satisfaction is being significantly impacted. Many teachers report fear about becoming sick as a result of an exposure at work, even as they express a desire to continue to provide care or return to the classroom for the sake of their children and families. Teachers on average rated the impact to their job satisfaction as 4.2 on a scale of 1 to 5.
Child care providers are concerned about how the pandemic will impact child development.
- Providers expressed significant concerns about social development and how to facilitate play-based learning as they try to physically distance children from each other.
- Overall, providers believe the most significant impact on child development is the lack of child-to-child interaction (with an average of 4.1 on a 1-5 scale with 1 being “not impacted” and 5 being “significantly impacted.”)
Child care providers are adapting to meet new regulations in different ways.
- Data show most programs are implementing physical distancing among children.
- Of providers who are open, 40 percent report that adults are wearing masks, while 67 percent of providers who are closed report that they intend to have teachers wear masks as much as possible.
- Providers who are open report less concern about language development and child-adult interactions being impacted than providers who are closed. It seems that adults feel they can mitigate some of the impacts of distancing, masks, and enhanced cleaning when it comes to their interactions with children.
- Providers who are open were much more focused on the impact of enhanced cleaning. They report that it can be stressful and often takes time away from meaningful interactions with children.
These stories were echoed on a webinar we hosted on June 3. Three child care providers spoke about the challenges they’ve faced in recent months, and dozens of others shared stories in the chat about how they’re adapting and reimagining their workplaces. We heard that providers are concerned about all the areas where adaptation is needed, from pick-up and drop-off to meal times and diapering. For example, teachers shared about finding masks, checking the temperature of visitors, restructuring mealtimes, and revised teacher-child ratios.
Missed the live webinar on how COVID-19 is impacting child care providers? Watch the recording any time!
It’s clear from this data that there are many COVID-related challenges unique to child care, but the hardest question to answer is, “So, what should we do?” We hope these findings will help providers who are getting ready to open, and will also help policymakers formulate clearer guidelines that are informed by the voices of those providing care to children every day. At LENA, we are keeping an eye on the data to see if we notice impacts to conversational turns between adults and children. Stay tuned for another blog post with recommendations on how to mitigate the impacts to social interactions. If you’d like to share more about your experience, please comment below or email us at email@example.com.