Our collective amnesia on childcare


This is the September 27, 2021 edition of the 8 to 3 newsletter on school, kids and parenting. Do you like what you read ? Sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Do you ever feel like we can only remember one thing at a time?

I’m not talking about us, in particular, as parents – although with weeks like this, which involved coordinating several different non-COVID vaccinations, tons of insurance documents and a half-dozen of PCR testing, I am baffling how each of us regularly remembers eating, sleeping and bathing.

I mean us as a society. Specifically, I mean how we as a society understand the work of caring for one another versus the work of everyone else. For a brief moment – or rather for a series of brief moments – it seemed to me that the pandemic had revealed how work and care were woven together. And then, just as suddenly, it seems like we’ve all forgotten.

At least that’s the impression I got from browsing through the headlines of the past week, many of which came out of this September 2021 Treasury Department Report. After months of trial and error and predictions about the mismatch between available jobs and available workers, it seemed like everyone suddenly remembered how much work depends on childcare.

“People cannot return to work in other occupations if they do not have access to stable, quality child care,” said Lea Austin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley, whose most recent research helps explain the current shortage. “It feels like we are already losing some of the most critical lessons of this pandemic in healthcare and education in America.”

To be honest, I knew relatively little about our child care infrastructure before March 2020. I had worked in child care centers as a teenager and put my son there right after he received his 2 month shots. I had also struggled to find a licensed provider when we moved from New York to Los Angeles – but I only had a rudimentary sense of the rules and bureaucracies that governed the child care system and how they differed. of K-12 schools.

What I learned the following year from my reporting was both shocking and obvious.

“Our child care workforce is 16% smaller than it was during the pandemic, and the workforce was not large enough back then, so we’re really struggling now, ”Austin said.

Individually, many of us already knew this. But collectively, we haven’t. Briefly, fleetingly, the pandemic has forced us to recognize that child care and education are not truly separate, and that while K-12 teachers may call themselves “not babysitters.” , they had nonetheless provided government-subsidized childcare services to millions of workers who now did not have it.

“As the schools closed, it became obvious to everyone how much care and education are intertwined, and how much of that time in school also provides a service to families and the economy so people can earn, ”Austin said.

The government has also acknowledged this, in part, by allowing child care centers to remain open while K-12 schools are closed and quickly expanding access to child care vouchers.

In short, fleetingly, we have been forced to reckon with how much of our “essential work” – the work that our society cannot do without – is done by parents, and especially mothers. At the same time, we saw how many other mothers, especially poor mothers of color, could be sidelined when it suited the market, no matter how essential their work was to them and their families.

Now all of a sudden the market wants these mothers back. I’ve been reading it every day for months – there’s work to be done! works! works! but no workers to do them, and no one can understand why. Unemployment benefits have been cut, wages increased, and yet incomprehensible the workforce has not returned.

It seems that none of these people have ever read the quarantine protocol for their child’s school. None of them managed distance education last year, or bit their nails while waiting to see if classrooms reopen fully this fall. None of them questioned whether to keep an unvaccinated child at bay, or how to replace an aunt or grandmother lost in their delicate babysitting scheme. And none of them have apparently ever done the math I do every day as a working mom, counting every dollar I earn against every hour of care I pay while I earn it.

“Companies like Target and Starbucks are raising wages, they are offering benefits, they are doing what it takes to attract people to work. But it’s not available for babysitting, ”Austin explained. “Most child care is paid for by families, so investing more money in early childhood educator support programs would mean higher fees for families. “

This was and remains the central problem with childcare: parents pay more than they can afford, but workers still earn less than they can live. In a new report released this month, a surprising percentage of California vendors said they would have closed without the pandemic grant liferaft last year – but data shows many of these closures would have occurred despite everything, if not last year than this year or in 2022.

“If you have access to better wages and health insurance [in another job], we can’t fault people for not coming back to do this job, ”said Austin. “We can’t get good, stable child care if we can’t stabilize and support the early years and education workforce, and until we step in with resources. public, we are going in circles. “

This month’s Treasury report details why and how the private market has failed to create and maintain adequate child care for the U.S. workforce. Its authors are unequivocal that the system will fail without public support. Yet publicly funding child care – something most developed countries are already doing – requires first publicly acknowledging who we want to get back to work.

“It’s really intimidating and frustrating because it just seems so obvious,” Austin said. “The reality is that most parents work, whether people like it or not. “

Program submerged, application blocked, black children criminalized …

In other news …

a independent study program run by Los Angeles Unified was inundated with students after being retooled to accommodate families reluctant to send their children back to in-person instruction. Howard Blume and Melissa Gomez of The Times have looked into the problem.

“The average person is not even aware of the implicit ways in which Black children are treated differently and criminalizedSays Kristin Henning, a Washington lawyer who has written a new book on the subject. She did a Q&A with the Times.

And Facebook puts the brakes on a new Instagram Kids app after being struck by reviews that it is harmful to children, especially teenage girls.

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What else do we read

The TV show “Tad Lasso” can be layman. A dad says it’s just the right show for his teenagers. Washington post

Schools across the country are facing an upsurge in disruptive behavior, reflecting the stress caused by the pandemic. Chalk beat

In response to this problem, here are some ideas for how to deal with pandemic emotions of children. KQED Mind / Shift

You want to know how to motivate your children do well in school? A team of Canadian and Australian researchers have some thoughts after reading 144 studies on the subject. The Hechinger report

Why English Learners Need More Than Phonics master reading. EdSource

The closure of the isolated labor and delivery center on the coast of Mendocino County has left pregnant women in this part of California with long perilous journeys To give birth. Mendocino Voice

San Diego-area mom who nearly lost her daughter to anorexia nervosa is now training her parents how to help their children overcome eating disorders. San Diego Union-Tribune

Give me your news.

Do you have any comments? Ideas ? Questions? Tips for the story? Send me an email. And stay connected on Twitter.


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