The Importance of Child Care in a Pandemic
Child care is not just a place where children go when their families work. It is a key learning environment for children, the country’s next generation of community members and workers. A child’s future is molded in the first few years of life and increasing accessibility to affordable, high-quality care is an essential part of supporting this development. In Mesa County, many families were already struggling to find affordable child care before the pandemic. With financial strains caused by COVID-19, the cost to a family and profit margins for providers are teetering on the edge of sustainability.
All who are caring for children during this time know the demands that each day can bring, but the rapid response and resourcefulness of child care workers adapting among ever changing industry circumstances warrants much applause. Historically, this work has often gone overlooked and undervalued. The crisis has showcased the essential need for this work in the community and from it, many temporary solutions have been enacted. Despite this, child care work remains one of the lowest paid professions in the United States, despite rising requirements for credentials and education and extensive research pointing to the importance of the early years for children’s healthy development and future outcomes. Without innovative and robust long-term investment in the child care industry, families cannot thrive.
The chronic underinvestment in child care has significant negative consequences for family’s economic stability, gender, racial and economic inequality, child development and school readiness, and communities across the United States. Mesa County is considered a child care desert, meaning there are not enough licensed child care slots for the 11,000 children in our county. Currently, there is just one spot available for every five children who need child care. Many local efforts are being made to support this industry, including the work of Mesa County Public Health’s Child Care 8,000 initiative and the work of the Partnership for Children and Families. These collaborations create strong partnerships to support an industry that stimulates our economy by allowing our families to go to work and provides our community’s children and families with quality care and early childhood education, a foundation to healthy human development.
Join us in supporting this industry and celebrating the genuine care for children that holds it together. To get involved in the early childhood efforts of our community, check out mesacountypcf.org or follow along on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @mesacountypcf.