NEW HAVEN – “We had to figure out, were we going to be able to pay our staff?” says Allyx Schiavone, Director of the Friends Center for Children, which did just that when the early education facility shut down at the start of the pandemic.
And families weren’t charged for lost time.
“It was very difficult. It’s like a nightmare every morning, you think it’s going to end but it’s the same. so you run out of ideas, you run out of energy,” says Dorline McClarence who has three children ages 2, 7 and 8.
When the center re-opened, she secured her son, Sam, a spot which made a huge difference.
“I felt like I was breathing for the first time after five months,” says McClarence.
But exposure and quarantine caused frequent closures, leaving families in limbo.
“The expectation that parents can keep their jobs and not work is also ridiculous,” says Schiavone. “We lost 40% of our staff because of underlying conditions, having family members with underlying conditions and having children.”
The teacher shortage is a national problem.
“And, honestly, we’re exhausted both as a school but also as an industry,” says Schiavone who is outspoken about what she believes is the bottom line. “Because we’re a 98% female workforce and on average we make $26,000 per year, we don’t have a loud voice.”
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who has worked on the issue, added, “The collapse of the child care industry has major implications for the reopening of the economy but also has important implications for income and educational inequality, racial equity, and geographic equity. We must pass additional federal relief legislation that includes sweeping investments in child care.”
And, Beth Bye, Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood, is predicting there will be big change after Covid.
“This is one of the things I think we’ll look back and say, ‘This is where everyone understood what childcare advocates had been saying for 30 years – that the system is fragile,'” Bye said.
While some federal funds have come through, Schiavone says much more is needed to make the system more affordable for families.
“This crisis really sheds light on where we are as a nation,” says Schiavone who will keep speaking up, working with advocates like DeLauro, to make change.
“It’s very important, we can’t do without it,” says McClarence.