Connecticut is reopening and parents are heading back to work, but finding child care has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents worry whether it’s safe to bring their child to a group setting. At the same time, child care providers have been hit hard by the pandemic
“It is our responsibility as providers to put forward the most safest environment to make sure that families are cared for so we can go back to doing what we’ve always done,” Monette Ferguson, executive director of the Alliance for Community Empowerment in Bridgeport, said.
“Our teachers want to come back to work,” Ferguson said. “But what they’re telling us is they want to be safe and they want to know that when they come back to work that the environment will be conducive of the same loving and nurturing environment that they were used to.”
“We are on the precipice of a childcare crisis," U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said.
DeLauro says she will be fighting for $50 billion in emergency funding in congress to help child care providers remain afloat during the pandemic.
“In good times these are small businesses that operate on a razor-thin margin and now with the pandemic they are facing financial ruin,” DeLauro said. “And more than half of childcare programs could close.”
A survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) before the COVID-19 pandemic, found that just 11% of providers could survive a closure of an indeterminate length of time without government support — and only 27% could survive a month-long closure.
If those numbers are accurate, it means Connecticut could lose an estimated 46,000 licensed child care slots.
Many childcare programs are not open at the moment.
Kristy Deconti, owner of Natural Learning Community Children’s School in Simsbury, closed her doors in mid-March when the children and families stopped coming.
“It’s a pretty dire situation. Child care centers are a pretty fragile industry to begin with. It’s a very fragile margin to be able to function on,” DeConti said.
Deconti said families have been paying 25% of their tuition to help pay her rent, but she doesn’t know how long they will continue to do that.
“Most of the parents were afraid to send their child back, mostly because we don't know everything about this virus and we don’t know how it affects everyone,” DeConti said.
DeConti said she doesn’t believe she’s going to reopen soon. She said she doesn’t have enough supplies to get her through two weeks and her staff is getting paid more on unemployment.
“My dream was always to have my own place and to just watch that crumble right before your eyes when it’s something you have no control over is devastating,” DeConti said.
Office Of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye said 70% of parents are nervous about sending their children back to group settings.
“The usual demand is down and we cut their supply in half. There’s no way they can make it,” Bye said.