The Family Conservancy’s (TFC) work to improve the early education system has enabled them to forge close partnerships with thousands of child care providers and programs in the Kansas City Community. Over the years, these partnerships have deepened TFC’s understanding of challenges and opportunities facing the sector.
When COVID-19 disrupted everyday life in the Kansas City community, TFC already knew child care providers would play a key role in the response and recovery. Given many of the flaws that already existed in our child care sector, TFC also feared the pandemic would have devastating consequences for early education programs.
Anticipating the challenges that lay ahead, TFC formed the Early Education COVID-19 Task Force. Beginning in late March, this group of Kansas City Metro community stakeholders started monitoring supply and demand in the child care sector. Thanks to their longstanding relationships with child care providers, they quickly convened providers to promote best practices and share information. In partnership with local health departments, a series of webinars were offered to help providers understand new child care regulations and recommendations.
As the pandemic intensified and parents pulled their children out of care at an alarming and unpredictable rate, child care programs suffered significant financial losses. Through these challenges, they continued to be an essential part of the COVID-19 response by enabling medical professionals and other frontline workers to continue their important work. The majority of child care providers remained open, even though reduced attendance and added safety precautions put most programs on a path toward financial ruin.
By May, roughly 30 percent of the 1,444 metro area programs were closed. By September, more than three months after the stay-at-home order was lifted, 19 percent of area programs were still closed. Many programs have reported that they do not have plans to reopen. What these numbers fail to capture is that nearly every program in the etro continues to suffer financial losses from reductions in enrollment and increased labor costs associated with new safety and sanitization processes.
As the recovery process moved forward and parents eased back into their regular work routines, TFC ramped up advocacy efforts calling for dedicated relief funding for the child care sector. In August, TFC delivered yard signs to every metro-area child care provider. The campaign aimed to increase awareness of the vital role child care plays in our community, the recovery from COVID-19, and recruit providers and parents to join TFC’s advocacy efforts.
In September, the task force celebrated a win when TFC secured CARES Act funding to help Wyandotte County, Kansas, child care providers offset losses and purchase PPE. The task force continues to support early educators and is advocating for additional financial support to keep the sector afloat.
TFC was grateful to be able to utilize their unique position and existing relationships with child care providers across the metropolitan area – which encompasses two states, many counties and hundreds of cities – to become a connector and problem solver for a sector that serves the lifeline of our economy: working families.
Written by Scott Hanson, Marketing Communications Manager at The Family Conservancy
The Family Conservancy supports the most important period of human development by investing in young children, and those who care for them during the first five years of life. Working with children, programs and parents, The Family Conservancy is building an early education system that prepares Kansas City's youngest students for success in school and life. To learn more, visit their website here.