Blog

By Sydney Frost, Communications Intern at CCSA

As the summer communications intern for Child Care Services Association, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with child care providers who are making a difference for children. Through this experience, I have learned how essential these providers are and how an asset-based approach of investing back into individuals can make a significant impact on an entire community during a challenging time. 

COVID-19 has left child care programs to operate in extreme circumstances while providing safe and loving care to children. Child care educators are serving children and families with dwindling supplies, limited personal protective gear and increased health and safety guidelines. The CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund provides funding for child care programs struggling to meet the needs of essential workers and families returning to work. The funding will help programs get the tools and resources they need during this challenging time.

Felicia Klintensmith, the director at Pollocksville Presbyterian Child Care Center, a nonprofit child care center in Jones County,  received funding from CCSA’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. She has served the families that need child care during the pandemic, but her enrollment numbers decreased by nearly 50 percent and her center is dealing with increased costs for cleaning products.

“I personally want to see more funding for early childhood education and programs. I know the pre-K programs at the school get a lot of money, but I think the early childhood educators need more money also here at the centers,” Felicia said.

Many child care programs are struggling during this pandemic due to a shift in enrollment numbers and a decline in funding. Increased funding and support for early childhood educators are significant because if families can’t go back to work due to the lack of available child care, the economy can’t recover.

Stacey Myrick, the owner of Stacey’s Child Care, a family child care home in Halifax County, also received funding from CCSA’s COVID-19 Relief Fund and the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship program. She said the most difficult part of dealing with the impact of COVID-19 has been keeping up with health and safety regulations. She has been paying for some virtual learning opportunities and additional cleaning supplies.

“It’s only me, so I receive my kids at the door with a mask on the whole time. By them being small, I don’t allow them to wear masks, but I have my mask on. When I receive them, I check their temperature as soon as they arrive and do a lot of handwashing,” Stacey said.

Child care programs have been instructed to follow a set of interim guidelines provided by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). These actions are intended to minimize the spread of COVID-19; however, some of the actions are not feasible due to the costs. Early childhood education needs more funding to survive this pandemic. 

As we saw during the state shutdown, child care is an essential service much like roads and bridges. We all depend on parents with young children who are hospital workers, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, etc. whether or not each one of us has a child. And, therefore, we all depend on child care, which is clearer now, given our experience with COVID-19.

Additional funding is also essential because child care programs offer a safe space for children during this challenging time. This year, in particular, it is especially important for children to have a sense of normalcy and happiness.

“I wanted my kids to feel like it’s their home away from home,” said Stacey. “It’s not like they can just come in, sit down and do ABC’s or write. Of course, we do all that, but I want them to feel as if they can do that on their own, not just me sitting down and monitoring them to do it.”

CCSA has always played a role in helping child care programs provide the highest quality early learning experience for our state’s youngest children. The CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund Phase I was designed to provide small grants to child care centers and family child care homes in North Carolina. Funds were available to child care programs, such as Stacey’s and Felicia’s, that remained open and served the children of essential workers. For more information, visit www.childcareservices.org.

The CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund is funded by the generosity of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, the PNC Foundation, ChildTrust Foundation and Truist Charitable Fund as well as the many CCSA donors who contributed to the relief fund. Make a contribution today.

By Marsha Basloe, President of CCSA

There are many lessons learned from our ongoing experience with COVID-19, which continue to evolve to best promote the health and safety of North Carolina residents. One key take-away is the important role that child care plays as an essential service – to support essential personnel during our stay-at-home period and now to support both essential personnel and parents returning to work as the North Carolina economic recovery begins.

Pre-COVID, child care teaching staff throughout North Carolina earned about $10.97 per hour on average. Infant and toddler staff earned less – about $10 per hour.[1] Child care teaching staff who left the field reported pay as the number one reason for leaving their jobs.[2] The low pay of child care personnel is not new news. The Child Care Services Association has long documented the compensation challenges within the field through a series of reports over the last two decades.[3] But, what is new is the recent recognition of the need to compensate child care teaching staff better as front-line workers supporting all other workforces (as well as the healthy development of children).

In April, the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) recognized the importance of the child care workforce and paid bonuses of $950 each per month for full-time teaching staff and $525 each per month for non-teaching staff.[4] Part-time employees received prorated amounts related to their hours.[5] Bonus payments were made for staff working onsite in April and May but ended in June.[6]  Programs that re-opened in May were eligible for prorated bonus payments.[7]

The intent of increasing compensation was to boost employee retention (and availability) at a time when child care was needed to support essential personnel. It was also a form of “hazard” pay recognizing that the likelihood of potential exposure to COVID-19 was greater for these workers. While it took a pandemic to increase compensation for the child care workforce, the implications are clear:

  • Child care pay is too low to retain the workforce to staff the needed supply of child care
  • As front-line workers, the child care workforce is more at risk of COVID exposure
  • Child care workers should be better compensated for the jobs that they perform

While many North Carolina businesses have re-opened, the situation on the ground for child care workers hasn’t changed. Parents returning to the workforce will need access to child care. The supply of child care depends on a stable and qualified child care workforce. There is no vaccine that has yet been approved and, therefore, child care workers remain on the front-lines at greater risk of COVID exposure (despite best efforts to comply with new health and safety requirements).

In the short-term, at a minimum, the bonus funding for child care workers should continue until there is an approved vaccine and North Carolina residents have been inoculated. They are heroes. The child care workforce is supporting all other workforces to ensure that North Carolina provides a needed onramp for parents to return to work. In the long-term, it’s time to rethink child care compensation, particularly for teaching staff who should be paid in a manner aligned with their credentials and experience.

Our experience with COVID offers all of us in the early childhood community an opportunity to re-envision child care in a post-COVID period. To say that the old system didn’t work well would be an understatement. Child care workers earned low wages, nearly half relied on some form of public assistance to support their families, and turnover was high.[8] I wrote a blog about child care compensation last November

Post-COVID, we should bring child care back better. We should use the interim period until a vaccine is developed and widely-used to identify ways to finance a high-quality child care system that appropriately pays the child care workforce aligned with achieved credentials or degrees in early childhood education such as an AA or BA in early childhood education or an infant/toddler certification.

Over the past few years, a group of early childhood advocates, service providers and state policymakers worked collaboratively to develop a recommended wage scale to better support child care teachers.[9] The challenge is to find a way to pay for it. Child care providers cannot be mandated to pay significantly higher wages, particularly at a time when their current economic model is in danger of collapse. Parents can’t pay more given the difficulty in affording current child care prices let alone the large increase in unemployment.

It is time to look at new ways to fund a child care wage scale. Everyone has a stake in the child care supply, which includes the workforce – whether individuals have a child or not. As witnessed during the state shutdown, child care is an essential service much like roads and bridges.  We all depend on parents with young children who are hospital workers, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, etc. whether or not each one of us has a child. And, therefore, we all depend on child care, which is more clear now given our experience with COVID.

Some of the options that could be considered involve Congress such as allocating funding to states to better pay the child care workforce. Other options involve the State Legislature considering ways to provide a publicly-funded wage scale for child care workers through the creation of new revenue strategies such as a state refundable workforce tax credit linked to professional development achievements or a publicly funded system of compensating early educators that could be funded through a state payroll surtax.

For example, employers and employees currently pay 6.2 percent of earnings up to $137,700, which is adjusted annually based on average wage growth. An increase of 0.5 percent could be added to the current tax (dedicated to a state child care workforce compensation fund). Another related strategy could be simply lifting the wage cap (e.g., to $1 million in income) with the increased revenue dedicated to a state child care workforce compensation fund. 

North Carolina is a leader in early childhood education. States often to look to us for innovative ideas. If a publicly-funded child care compensation strategy were to be developed, the collateral benefit would be a reduction in the cost of child care for families.

For example, currently the cost of personnel comprises about 70 percent of the typical operating budget for child care programs. If teaching staff were paid from a publicly-funded initiative, the fixed costs remaining for child care program operators would be significantly reduced, which means the cost of child care could be made more affordable for N.C. families – which translates to increased workforce participation. In this way, through financing innovation, we could address the top two challenges with child care: (1) low compensation for the workforce and (2) affordability for families.

It’s time to apply the lessons learned from COVID to potential solutions that serve our communities better – the child care workforce, all other workforces that depend on child care, children, working parents and employers. We can’t go back to the past that didn’t work well for anyone. Let’s roll up our sleeves and schedule some Zoom meetings to begin the conversation.


[1] Collaborating for Change in Compensation, NC Strategies.

[2] Child Care Services Association, Leaving the Classroom: Addressing the Crisis of NC’s Early Childhood Educator Turnover, February 2020.

[3] Child Care Services Association workforce compensation studies.

[4] NC Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE), COVID-19 Child Care Payment Policies.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Child Care Services Association, 2015 North Carolina Child Care Workforce Report.

[9] Collaborating for Change in Compensation, NC Strategies.

By Allison Miller, VP of Compensation Initiatives at CCSA

When any teacher working with young children graduates with her/his Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, it is cause for celebration. But when three teachers at the same child care program accomplish this at the same time, it is even more special. Yvette Garner, Tiffany Grace Pointer and Priscilla Rowell from Excel Christian Academy (ECA) in Alamance County did just that. They didn’t let financial struggles or the impact of COVID-19 stop them from achieving their educational goals. Congratulations!

All three teachers learned about their passion for early childhood at different points in their lives. Tiffany, for example, started teaching when she was quite young. She remembers lining up her stuffed animals, who were her very first students. They all agree that being able to impact the lives of children, seeing them grow and learn, kept them motivated to continue their education and that having the support of their director was critical to their success.

Yvette shared, “My Director, Davina Woods, and the whole staff at ECA encouraged me to go back to school. They were my support team. When I first started working there, everyone was enrolled in school and taking classes whether they were online or face to face. So, I enrolled at Alamance Community College and started off with one class at a time, until I became more comfortable with it. Their support encouraged me to keep moving forward to success.”

Priscilla said, “Mrs. Woods didn’t stop with just hiring me, she also opened my eyes for me to believe in myself and move toward what I knew I should be doing. At 60 years old, I did it and I am very proud of myself. Who knows what the next move will be?”

They also acknowledge the key roles that the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program and the Child Care WAGE$® Program played in their educational journey.  According to Tiffany, she could not have obtained her degree without the scholarship assistance. “The T.E.A.C.H. scholarship has helped me by paying for my tuition and my books for school. Without them, I do not think I would have been able to get my degree,” said Tiffany.

Priscilla echoed that perspective, “There was a time when my rent was due and I needed to have work done on my car and had to make a choice of which one was more important. They both were and I didn’t know how I was going to make it work. That very day I received a check from T.E.A.C.H. All I can say was what a blessing T.E.A.C.H. was to me while I was in school and then because of me graduating, I was able to get a raise at my job. Thanks T.E.A.C.H!”

All three receive WAGE$ supplements and discuss the importance of this additional compensation. They use the supplements to meet basic needs, to catch up on bills, for car maintenance and to enhance their classrooms. Yvette also pointed out, “WAGE$ was the incentive to encourage me to keep moving forward in my degree, because each bonus I received made up for the hours missed at work.”

When COVID-19 really hit in North Carolina, many students had to make a quick transition from seated to online courses. Yvette was one of those.  She said, “I am excited to say with hard work and dedication, I was able to complete all of my classes and earned my degree.”

Priscilla completed her coursework in December, just prior to these changes. But COVID-19 took away her ability to celebrate like she had planned.  She shared, “If I had known Mrs. Corona was around the corner and was going to stop graduation, I would have celebrated in December. This lady was looking forward and was very proud to strut her stuff across the stage.”

CCSA’s WAGE$ and T.E.A.C.H. are also very proud of Yvette, Tiffany and Priscilla. We celebrate them and all the teachers who persevered through these challenging times to complete their coursework. We congratulate them on their success and thank them for the difference they make in the lives of the children and families they serve.

By Allory Bors, Research Coordinator at CCSA

One might argue that the events of the past six weeks have been among the most important in United States history. As we were beginning to grapple with the continued economic fallout of the pandemic and a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases in many states, we found ourselves amidst an unprecedented movement to end white supremacy and police brutality and affirm that Black Lives Matter. Now is the time to boldly demand more from our government, institutions and communities. Now is the time to confront the impacts of white supremacy and misogynoir on our early childhood field, and to have meaningful, anti-racist conversations with our young children.

Breonna Taylor’s death particularly hits home in our field. As an essential healthcare worker, Taylor worked long hours, much like many in our child care community – particularly home-based providers. Black women and women of color are overrepresented in care professions, which pay infamously low wages. Within these fields as well, a profound racial pay gap persists. Taylor was also just beginning to fill out paperwork to attend community college next fall, much like many of the scholars our T.E.A.C.H. program supports. Many in our field are first-generation college students who work toward degrees by working and taking community college classes part-time.

Racism is a driving force that causes the underfunding and undervaluing of the early childhood field as a whole. Justice for the child care field can only be fully realized by putting an end to white supremacy, and we must give our full attention to racial equity in our industry. In response to these unjust killings, protestors are calling for reallocation of funding from police departments to social services, including child care. Advocates in the early childhood field are writing about how to talk to young children about race, how to support young children through racial trauma and how to address systemic discrimination and harm within our field.

How have you experienced or witnessed racism in the early childhood field? Do you have thoughts about how we can create anti-racist child care communities? Please write to us here to continue the conversation.

Below you will find some highlights from our COVID-19 timeline of May and June. Click here to view the full timeline.

North Carolina COVID-19 May and June 2020 Timeline Highlights

May 1The first deadline for child care providers to apply for CCSA’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, payments to be disbursed in June.
May 4Unemployment claims in North Carolina reach 1 million, which is 20% of the state’s workforce. So far, N.C. has made $1.27 billion in payments toward unemployment. Problems with the system persist, but since April 17 federal stimulus unemployment has been going into effect.
May 8Governor Cooper announces Phase 1 of the reopening plan.
May 11As of May 11, all child care programs are licensed to reopen upon approval of an application.
May 13The House of Representatives passes the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Act, or HEROES Act, the next proposed stimulus relief package. Though the bill would provide some major relief for families, renters and citizens with student loans, it falls short for the child care field.
May 14DCDEE announces new operational grants will be provided for child care facilities open in some or all of April, May and June to help cover losses from parent fees due to low enrollment.  
May 21Boston Consulting Group releases survey conducted in five countries including the U.S., which finds the bulk of household labor is falling to women, who are spending an average of 15 hours more than men on domestic work.
May 22North Carolina enters Phase 2 of the “Safer at Home” reopening plan. Despite this, the day after reopening, the state experienced the biggest single-day spike in cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
May 25White Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin kills George Floyd, a Black security officer, father and Minneapolis community member. In response to Floyd’s death and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Titi Gulley and countless others, protests erupt in every single state in the U.S.   Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, George Floyd is survived by his three children. His six-year-old daughter, Gianna, can be seen speaking about her father in this video.

Here and here are some resources for talking to young children about racism and police violence. The National Black Child Development Institute has a list of resources on helping children cope with racial trauma.
May 27House Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Bobby Scott (VA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) propose the Child Care is Essential Act, which would provide $50 billion in funding to stabilize and support the child care field.
First Two Weeks of JuneAfter reviewing more than 1,000 applications in May, CCSA begins notifying recipients and releasing funds as a part of the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund.
June 4The Payroll Protection Program is revised, so that borrowers have more flexibility in how they can use the loan, and the likelihood that they will receive full loan forgiveness is increased.
June 14In celebration of Pride Month and in mourning of the recent murders of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton and Tony McDade, thousands rally outside the Brooklyn Museum in New York for Black trans lives. In North Carolina, the recent murders of three Black trans women – Monika Diamond, Chanel Scurlock and Keyiariah Quick – are still fresh. Being trauma-informed and treating Black LGBTQIA+ providers and young children with the utmost respect and dignity is one way the early childhood field can respond to this violence. The NAEYC has provided the following resource, titled “Embracing LGBTQIA+ Staff in Early Childhood Programs.”  
June 15NCDHHS publishes updated Interim Guidance for Child Care Settings, which outlines updated health and safety procedures based on continuing the reopening process, and increased knowledge about COVID-19.
Week of June 22Nearly four months after the first case in North Carolina, there have been a total of 53,840 cases, with 1,250 deaths.

When Chris Tryon, who operates a five-star family child care home in Union County, learned that Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$® would be available to him and other home-based professionals, he was very excited.

He said, “I was all for it! We spend so much money keeping our programs going and meeting high standards, and I have five stars. AWARD$ would help because I could upgrade my facility, furniture, toys, get a nicer playset. I would reinvest it in my home program and my kids!”

Chris’ first check was mailed at the end of February, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard in North Carolina. Now, as with other early educators in the state, Chris is struggling through this new reality.  His regular parents were not considered essential, so they stayed home with their own children. He is now* open for essential workers and says he wants to help if he can, but he has not yet had many children.

Chris wonders what will happen in the future if the children he has served will return. He said they’ve become like his family. His mother always worked with children so he found it natural to do so. He started working when he was young at a child recreation center and kept going from there. When he moved to North Carolina, he started working in a child care center and then opened his own home in 2009.

He said, “The best part of having my own program is that I really get to know the families I serve. I can really share with them about what is happening with their children. Children often stay with me until they go to kindergarten, and I give them stability and familiarity.”

“Being a man in this industry can be challenging,” Chris said. “People who don’t know me tend to think I may not know what I’m doing. They get a little nervous about it. Others embrace it. I tell them it is my profession and I have a lot of experience. My friends call me ‘Gary Poppins,’ and I can embrace that. I can be a positive male role model.”

Chris looks forward to sharing his skills with more families and appreciates that the AWARD$ supplements will continue to offer some support during the COVID-19 crisis.

“My first check was like winning the lottery,” he said.  “Now, knowing that it is coming is wonderful because who knows how long this is going to last? Knowing that I have that cushion means a lot. I really want to thank the Division of Child Development and Early Education for helping out family child care providers.”

The NC Division of Child Development and Early Education funds the Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$® program in all 100 counties of North Carolina. Learn more about AWARD$ here.

*Interview took place in April, 2020.

By Marsha Basloe, President of CCSA

As businesses throughout North Carolina re-open their doors, parents will be returning to work. For parents with young children, access to affordable, quality child care will be critical – not just to support the ability of parents to return to work, but also to ensure that children are in a safe setting that promotes their healthy development.

While the state gradually moves toward re-opening in stages, it is far from returning to business as usual. As of May 28, more than 25,400 individuals in North Carolina had tested positive for COVID-19, 708 individuals were hospitalized and 827 individuals have died.[1] The release of the April unemployment data last week shows more than 573,000 individuals statewide are unemployed.[2] 

The curve may be flatter, but a vaccine for COVID-19 is unlikely any time soon and there remains no cure or treatment to date. As parents return to the workforce, one thing is clear: anxiety about COVID-19 exposure remains high. A recent nationwide poll from the Bipartisan Policy Center found that among parents with children under age 5, their top concern about returning to work and using child care is exposure of their children to COVID-19 (75 percent), higher than concerns related to affordability (46 percent) or the likelihood that their child care program will be open (47 percent).[3]

What Other States are Doing

In a live Zoom webinar on May 28, “State Child Care Administrator Forum COVID-19: What Worked, What Didn’t, What’s Next,” 10 state child care administrators from throughout the country shared their experiences and insight, including Susan Perry, the Chief Deputy Secretary, NC Department of Health and Human Services.[4]

All of the child care administrators expressed concern about the economic model for child care currently and in the year(s) ahead. All mentioned the importance of child care for parents returning to work and expressed concern about the economic viability of sustaining an adequate supply. Many mentioned a renewed interest by parents in family child care homes, a shift from prior parent preferences for center-based care for their children.

Child care administrators thought the shift in parent preferences was related to continued anxiety about COVID-19 in larger group centers, and a possible preference for smaller family child care settings in the neighborhood with no commute necessary and a small known group of families.

The Kentucky child care administrator, Sarah Vanover, shared her experience with five new pilot programs in that state involving networks of family child care (FCC) providers. It was inspiring to hear about networking family child care providers with a staffed hub of services (e.g., providing backend services such as billing or business technical assistance to support best business practices, other professional development supports to meet the needs of children of various ages and offering culturally responsive approaches to learning).

Another FCC home-based network that was underway involves a partnership with employers. In several communities, the state has supported a network of family child care homes to meet employer needs so human resource administrators in local companies can refer employees to one of the networked homes.

Staffed family child care networks are not new. It may be time to re-invest in them.

Throughout the past decade, family child care homes have declined by more than 20 percent.[5] Over the years, given the strength of the economy, most jobs have paid more than working in child care. As a result, many home-based providers left the field. In addition, a focus on serving larger numbers meant the growth of larger centers. However, in today’s economy and given the anxiety about COVID-19 exposure, it may very well be time for the re-emergence of licensed family child care homes.

A smaller environment with more flexible hours, a neighborhood location and the ability to meet the needs of families (e.g., siblings can be cared for together) often are characteristic of family child care. What staffed family networks can offer is an ongoing menu of support related to predictors of high quality such as licensing, professional support, training, financial resources, business and administrative support, materials and equipment and the ability for providers to share experiences, which reduces the isolation of individual family child care home providers.[6]

The vast majority of home-based providers care for children younger than age 5 and are more likely to care for infants and toddlers than center-based programs.[7] A number of studies have examined the relationship of family child care home network affiliation and quality caregiving and found that participating home-based providers offer higher quality care.[8]

Support In North Carolina

In North Carolina, Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCR&R) have operated a strong Infant Toddler Quality Enhancement Program statewide, coordinated by CCSA, since 2004.[9] With additional resources for Infant Toddler Quality and Core Technical Assistance services[10], CCR&R agencies could expand to support staffed family child care networks, including incentives and additional support to start a licensed family home-based child care business, offer care during nontraditional hours and better support special needs children. Southwestern Child Development Commission has a Family Child Care Home (FCCH) Project[11] for the CCR&R network and a FCCH Spotlight that will highlight FCCH providers that are doing amazing things across the state of North Carolina!

Resources

There are resources available and more are being developed to support these efforts. Self-Help’s Child Care Business Basics course[12] can help family child care homes succeed as child-care business owners. Opportunities Exchange[13] supports the business of early care and education to improve child outcomes.

NC ECE Shared Resources[14] already offers a statewide online shared services platform that includes a family child care toolkit with a robust array of resources upon which staffed family child care networks could expand.

North Carolina’s Path Forward

What is clear is that the path forward needs to reflect parent preferences as they emerge. Staffed family child care networks are working in other states; it’s time for North Carolina to invest in them as well. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to child care, but offering parents a menu of options, particularly in our nation’s current public health emergency, makes sense. 


[1] NCDHHS, COVID-19 public dashboard.

[2] NC Department of Commerce, North Carolina’s April Employment Figures Released, May 22, 2020.

[3] Bipartisan Policy Center, Nationwide Survey: Child Care in the Time of Coronavirus, April 10, 2020.

[4] Bipartisan Policy Center, “State Child Care Administrator Forum COVID-19: What Worked, What Didn’t, What’s Next?”, May 28, 2020.

[5] National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance, Addressing the Decreasing Number of Family Child Care Providers in the United States, 2019.

[6] National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance, Staffed Family Child Care Networks: A Research-Informed Strategy for Supporting High-Quality Family Child Care, 2017.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] NC Infant and Toddler Quality Enhancement Project

[10] NC CCR&R Services

[11] FCC Spotlight

[12] Self Help

[13] Opportunities Exchange

[14] NC ECE Shared Resources

By Marsha Basloe, President of CCSA

Like other small businesses throughout North Carolina, child care programs have been hit hard during the COVID-19 public health emergency. As of April, about half of the child care programs statewide had closed.[1] For the half of programs that were open, enrollment of children was far below prior levels upon which the child care business model was based.

For example, in April, among the 53 percent of child care centers that were open, centers reported average vacancy rates of 68-70 percent of capacity.[2] Among the 88 percent of family child care homes that were open at that time, average vacancy rates ranged from 37-41 percent.[3]

Prior to COVID-19, about 41,000 teachers and staff worked in child care.[4] In April, 20,000 child care staff were working on-site, indicating layoffs or furloughs of about half of the individuals working in child care.[5] Even in May, vacancy rates in N.C. were still high. [6]

How Short-time Compensation Programs Work

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included federal funds for states to operate short-time compensation (STC) programs, also referred to as work sharing programs.[7] These programs are a partnership between states and employers. Conceptually, the way STC programs work is that through state legislation (or an agreement between state labor agencies such as North Carolina’s Department of Commerce), employers can enter into an agreement to reduce hours in lieu of laying off staff. Employees would receive lower earnings based on fewer hours, but they could combine their earnings with a percentage of their unemployment compensation. In addition, since the CARES Act included a temporary federal supplement to state unemployment compensation of $600 per week (through July 31, 2020), employees participating in a short-time compensation program could also receive the weekly supplement.[8] 

For example, if a child care center cut the hours for staff working 40 hours per week to 32 hours, that’s a 20 percent reduction in hours. Under an STC program, staff would receive earnings from their 32 hours plus 20 percent of their unemployment compensation plus the weekly supplement (through July 31, 2020). That supports the child care teacher, the child care program and unemployment payments.

Another benefit of STC programs for child care centers is that it helps them retain a connection to their workforce to ramp operations back up as parents return to work. A benefit to employees is that, to the extent employers offer health insurance coverage or retirement benefits, while hours can be reduced, employers must continue paying for health care and retirement benefits. For states, it is far less expensive to pay partial unemployment for individuals compared to paying full benefits. And, both for-profit (tax paying) and non-profit child care businesses can participate.

Under the CARES Act, there are two ways in which STC programs are financed. For states that already have STC programs enacted by their state legislatures (or for any new states that pass STC legislation), the federal government provides 100 percent federal financing through December 31, 2020, if such programs comply with federal guidance.[9] For states without statutory authority for a STC program, state labor agencies can submit a state STC plan to be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, which then triggers federal reimbursement of 50 percent for benefits and 100 percent for administrative costs.[10]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to solving the challenges faced by small businesses. However, with regard to the child care industry, it is critical that each small business explore every option available to avoid what could be a collapse of the industry. 

In the case of STC programs, while they operate generally as lay-off aversion programs, they can also be used in the context of re-opening businesses that have closed temporarily.[11] In this way, the STC program can be used as a bridge to bring back workers who have previously been laid off. This option would also help child care businesses ramp up as parent demand increases over time as more parents return to the workforce.

What is clear is that parents depend on child care in order to return to work. The child care industry faces economic challenges just like other small businesses. Layoff aversion strategies such as the STC program may offer temporary support during this time of public health emergency, which has led to an unprecedented number of individuals who are unemployed (i.e., nearly one million claims have been filed in North Carolina since March 15).[12] 

Bill Rowe, the General Counsel and Director of Advocacy at the North Carolina Justice Center published a list of unemployment policy changes to be considered by the NC State Legislature.[13] Chief among those recommendations is the adoption of a N.C. short-time compensation program.

In the short-term, the STC could be a less expensive option for states compared to paying full unemployment compensation. In the long-term, for small businesses like child care, it may be a temporary bridge to weather through the COVID-19 economic devastation. 

It’s time to let your state legislators know that North Carolina needs a short-time compensation program. The future economic viability and supply of child care centers may depend on it.


[1] Bipartisan Policy Center, “State Child Care Administrator Forum COVID-19: What Worked, What Didn’t, What’s Next?”, May 28, 2020.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136.

[8] Ibid.

[9] U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 21-20, May 3, 2020.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] North Carolina Department of Commerce, Unemployment Claims Data, May 29, 2020.

[13] North Carolina Justice Center, Unemployment insurance changes needed in North Carolina, April 24, 2020.

By Allory Bors, Research Coordinator at Child Care Services Association

When it comes to responding to the pandemic, child care providers have been stuck between a rock and a hard place. In many cases, providers have been forced to choose between protecting themselves from deadly illness and feeding their families. Sociologists call this a double bind. A double bind is a situation in which a person has a limited number of choices, none of which lead to a positive or desirable outcome. In this kind of situation, we might say that a person has the illusion of choice.

When we call people heroes, we suggest they have fully consented to risk their lives for the greater good. For many child care providers in North Carolina, the COVID-19 crisis produces a limited number of choices, none of which are completely free from coercion. For example, many child care providers who made the decision not to work did not receive their stimulus check or unemployment payments in a timely manner, and will no longer be eligible for unemployment as the state reopens. On the other hand, many centers and homes who chose to stay open are receiving some income but must face new regulations and threats to their health without hazard pay or the security of adequate health insurance. Many providers are struggling with limited access to supplies, inadequate food, low enrollment numbers and lost income.

The HEROES Act

On May 13, the House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Act, or HEROES Act, the next proposed stimulus relief package. During the bill’s drafting process, child care policy advocates and researchers created a model to propose a dollar amount needed to keep the child care system afloat for the duration of the crisis. This amount was in the ballpark of $50 billion. Yet, the Heroes Act allocates a mere $7 billion toward child care relief. This is the trouble with the rhetoric of heroism. According to the model, this amount is only enough to support the child care system for a month. Even in the very bill designed to assist child care workers, the word “hero” obscures the reality that providers will be asked to do a lot more with a lot less.

We also cannot forget that before COVID-19, child care providers were called to risk their livelihoods for the greater good. More than one-fifth of child care workers do not have health insurance, and providers are among the lowest-paid workers in the country. Child care providers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees accept a significant wage penalty for choosing to work in early childhood education as opposed to the public elementary education field that is funded by public dollars. And, even in the problematic conversation naming essential workers as heroes, child care providers are often left out.

None of this is to say that we should stop praising child care providers for their bravery and heroism. However, it is important to be alert for when this kind of language stands in for real actions, which speak louder than words. Though the HEROES Act has already been passed in the house, you can take action by voicing your concerns to North Carolina’s U.S. Senators before the Senate votes on the bill, using this guide by the NC Early Education Coalition.

Do you have thoughts about the HEROES Act? If you are a child care provider, what are your thoughts about the word “hero?” Write to us here.

By Marsha Basloe, CCSA President

This is a heartbreaking fact – the number of young children experiencing homelessness in the United States has grown in the last decade. In fact, this number increased to more than 1.4M in 2017-2018 [i]. That is one out of every 16 young children. What does that look like? Picture a preschool classroom and imagine that one of the young children sitting on the floor listening to the teacher read a favorite book is living in a shelter, on someone else’s couch, in their family’s car, in a cramped motel room or perhaps sleeping somewhere different every night! The ramifications of this level of destabilization on children and families are tremendous. Negative consequences abound. Being homeless as a child can cause negative effects that last for the rest of someone’s life. And, there are concerns today, that the COVID-19 health pandemic will increase family homelessness even more.

Ensuring the early learning and development of our country’s youngest children is essential to Child Care Services Association’s (CCSA) work. Supporting the well-being of these young children and their families is an urgent task and one that is critical to improving the long-term educational outcomes of children nationwide. It is why CCSA is pleased to release the validated and revised Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters, in partnership with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This tool is designed to guide shelter staff in creating safe, developmentally appropriate environments for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families who are experiencing homelessness.

Often young children experiencing homelessness do not receive the social-emotional, educational, medical, mental health and/or special services they need to thrive. Infants and toddlers are particularly impacted by homelessness, with increased risk for early harm to their health and development, as well as having parents with poor physical and mental health, and additional hardships for families. [ii] In fact, infancy is the age at which a person is most likely to live in a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shelter. [iii]

Shelter staff can help ameliorate these issues for young children, if the shelter has a safe, developmentally appropriate environment for young children and easily connects to community partners who support early childhood development. The Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters can provide shelters the resources and information necessary to support the fragile young children in their care. With the tool’s abundant resources and guidance on best practices, shelters can assess how their programs can best meet the needs of vulnerable young children and their families. The tool also encourages shelters to develop relationships with local resources like early intervention and home visiting programs, child care and WIC, for help implementing new practices and to promote cross-program referrals. Finally, the tool guides shelters through developing action plans to promote positive experiences for children and families.

Knowing that safe and reliable child care is a key component of parents’ abilities to re-establish their lives and obtain steady employment, the self-assessment tool encourages shelters to build collaborations with early childhood programs in their communities. Many early childhood programs have expedited enrollment for families experiencing homelessness, and Head Start/Early Head Start programs are required to prioritize enrollment for these families. Enrolling in early learning programs gives children a chance to participate in age-appropriate activities that foster growth and development and learn at their own pace. Children who receive high quality early childhood education are more likely to be employed full-time and have more financial and personal assets as middle-age adults. [iv]

“The validated Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters has never been more important, as the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing more children to ‘shelter-in-place’ in environments that were not designed for young children, and at agencies that may not have expertise in early childhood development. Collectively, we must protect young children from the harm of homelessness, and take every step to make sure it does not limit their futures. This vital tool can help homeless shelters improve their physical environments, their practices and their partnerships to support young children at a time of great vulnerability, ultimately reducing the risk of experiencing homelessness as adults,” said Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection, a CCSA partner and lead organization in the Education Leads Home campaign.

The origins of the Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters

During my tenure as senior adviser for the Office of Early Childhood Development at the Administration for Children and Families, I had the opportunity to focus on early childhood homelessness. I quickly learned that homelessness among young children was on the rise and created numerous barriers for children’s development and multiple challenges for parents’ efforts at stabilizing their families.

Seeking ways to support both families and shelters that accept children and families, in 2014, we worked with a Congressional Emerson Hunger Fellow and developed the first edition of the Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters: A Guide to Support the Safe and Healthy Development of Young Children in Shelter Settings. The tool was shared by national organizations including NAEH, NAEHCY, CLPHA and SchoolHouse Connection and multiple federal departments as part of the USICH Early Childhood Workgroup. It was used in multiple locations across the country. People’s Emergency Center (PEC) in Philadelphia was using the tool in its BELL Project, and Sara Shaw was working with the project. BELL (Building Early Learning Links) connects early care and education programs to family emergency shelter and transitional housing providers to better respond to the needs of young children experiencing homelessness. Sara Shaw, a doctoral student at the University of Delaware under adviser Rena Hallam, associate professor in the Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, worked on validating the tool as part of her dissertation. I stayed in contact with Sara during this process and helped coordinate support from the regional office so that she could obtain data from across the country. Her work was just amazing to me!

Fast forward to 2018, when, as president of Child Care Services Association (CCSA) in North Carolina, I continued my work with early childhood homelessness – providing a 50-state chart of CCDF plans by early childhood departments across the country and staying in contact with Sara as she completed her dissertation and validated this tool. In fall 2019, I convened a panel of early childhood experts at CCSA with Dr. Sara Shaw to explore the findings and changes that must be made and review the validated tool from an early childhood education perspective. Today, the validated and revised Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters is ready for release.

The public health and economic crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic are disproportionately impacting people experiencing homelessness. Shelters and other housing assistance programs, most of which are strained in normal circumstances, may be struggling even more to keep up with demand during this period. There may be more young children and families experiencing homelessness. We hope this tool will provide much needed support. Conversations are beginning with partners across the country as we develop technical assistance packages and a 50-state strategy for using the validated tool and connecting young children experiencing homelessness to services. If you are interested in being part of our research, please contact me.

You can find the Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters here.


[i] Yamashiro, A., McLaughlin, J. (2020). Early Childhood Homelessness
State Profiles – Data Collected in 2017-2018
. U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.

[ii] Cutts, D., Bovell-Ammon A., et al.. (2018). Homelessness During Infancy: Associations With Infant and Maternal Health and Hardship Outcomes. Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, Volume 20 Number 2. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

[iii] Gubits, D., Shinn M., Bell S., Wood M., Dstrup S., Solari, C. (2015). Family options study: Short-term impacts of housing and services interventions for homeless families. Washington, D.C.: Prepared for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research by Abt. Associates and Vanderbilt University.

[iv] Sonnier-Netto, L., Landesman Ramey, S., Stack Hankey, M., Ramey, C. T. (2017). High Quality Early Care and Education Improves Adult Child–Parent Relationships (The Abecedarian Project). Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

By Jennifer Gioia, CCSA Communications Manager

In mid-March, North Carolina launched emergency child care for essential workers with procedures for health and safety precautions. Child care centers and family child care homes stepped up to play a critical role for the state as it dealt with the COVID-19 crisis. Many signed up so the health care workforce and other essential personnel would have a safe and nurturing environment for their children while they went to work.

Child Care Services Association (CCSA) launched the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund as a collaborative effort with Smart Start and local partnerships to thank our child care programs and provide additional funds during this crucial time. We want to help programs provide the highest quality early learning experience for our state’s youngest children.

Approximately 1,000 child care programs applied for aid from the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund, (the only COVID-19 relief fund designated explicitly for child care programs statewide) during its first round of funding. But the need is still great. More than 3,000 child care programs were open and serving children of essential workers as of early May, and even more programs will open now that North Carolina has started Phase I of its plan to reopen.

“This crisis has amplified significant needs, and protecting families ― and the child care programs on which they depend ― has never been more urgent,” said Jim Hansen, PNC regional president for Eastern Carolinas. The PNC Foundation contributed a $100,000 grant to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund. “Child care programs represent a critical resource for essential workers and their families, and this grant will help make these programs more accessible,” said Hansen.

Our Work is Not Yet Done

COVID-19 has left child care programs to operate in extreme circumstances while providing safe and loving care to children. During the shelter-in-place order, child care programs in North Carolina served approximately 25% of the number of children they would normally; this made it financially difficult for programs to continue operating without sustained income. For most child care programs, even small grants will help them safely care for children.

“This crisis has financially impacted child care programs and their ability to get the supplies they need to keep children safe,” stated Smart Start Interim President Donna White. “This relief fund is critical to helping programs that are open care for the children of front-line workers and helping ensure that all programs are able to reopen on the other side of this ― a thriving child care industry will be critical to North Carolina’s recovery.”

As North Carolina re-opens in stages and the nation slowly ramps up employment levels, the business of child care will face new challenges, also considering North Carolina K-12 schools are closed for the remainder of the school year. The state and federal guidelines for child care during the pandemic aren’t always easy in a child care setting. Young children don’t social distance, especially during traumatic times. Babies can’t cover their sneezes. And right now, most child care programs are working hard to deep clean frequently to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their classrooms.

“We are so grateful to the PNC Foundation for its generosity,” said CCSA President Marsha Basloe. “The PNC Foundation’s philanthropic mission focuses on early childhood education and community and economic development ― causes that are foundational to the work of CCSA and the relief efforts we are providing.”

Support our child care heroes. It’s not too late. We will continue to provide support to our child care community. You can donate to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund today. Any amount, big or small, can directly help early childhood educators and workers across our state best care for our children.