Is Safe and Affordable Child Care Possible?
There are lessons to learn from the shutdown of child-care this spring in Massachusetts. How can child care centers work?
Massachusetts designated 10,000 “emergency” free child-care slots for eligible “essential workers,” and disabled, and/or homeless children. About 2,500 spots were used. These slots are still open to eligible parents who are returning to work. We can’t verify the reason for this lack of use, but here are some suggestions:
- Perhaps “essential workers” were strictly defined and too many parents were turned away.
- Perhaps the free spots were in child-care centers, serving larger groups of children, perhaps 20 in a classroom, and parents feared for the safety of their children’s health
- Perhaps parents were listening to public health advisors who advised that their children avoid group settings.
- Perhaps children were safely cared for by relatives.
- Perhaps there were and still are small licensed childcare programs in homes where parents felt safer.
Many owners of childcare programs have debt from the expenses during the shut-down such as rental fees. The teachers were terminated and may have been able to collect unemployment pay from the government. Now, facility owners have their debt to pay and new regulations that may well double the cost of child care.
Owners will need to purchase cleaning supplies. The class size must be reduced from 20 to 10 children with two teachers. They must keep children separated with no shared toys. The toys will have to be sterilized. They may need to take temperatures and test the children regularly. The children must wear masks.
So tuition will increase and fewer parents will be able to afford it. Licensed child care in homes for a small number of children may be a possible answer until we have a vaccine.