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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.

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 Allory Bors, Research Coordinator at Child Care Services Association

At the two month mark since the first case of COVID-19 in North Carolina, we at Child Care Services Association have created this timeline intended to help us mark major developments and consider how far we’ve come. 

In our first post of the series, we discussed how the constant stream of COVID-19 news and developments can be disorienting. Before we have the chance to process one piece of information, we must urgently turn our attention to something else. Yet, advocating for young children, their families and child care providers in the long term will require us to stay vigilant and follow through.

For example, we have all heard about (or have firsthand experience with) the supports that should be coming to individuals, families and businesses through the CARES Act. However, thousands of North Carolinians have waited on the phone for hours to file an unemployment claim, and payouts have been delayed for weeks. Others have yet to receive their stimulus checks and small businesses struggle to navigate loan applications.

Even if the CARES Act works as intended, the Center for American Progress predicts a possible loss of 4.5 million child care slots nationally. Emergency solutions will require not only a great level of creativity but an understanding of context so we can say with confidence what will and won’t work to support the early childhood system.

If you or someone you know has firsthand experience you would like to share about filing for unemployment, finding child care or applying for small business loans, we would love to hear from you! Comments can be submitted by email here.

You will find some of the timeline’s highlights below. Click here to read the full timeline.

North Carolina COVID-19 March and April 2020 Timeline Highlights

March 3 Governor Roy Cooper announces first person in North Carolina to test positive for Coronavirus.  
March 14 In response to a growing number of cases, Governor Cooper announces a two-week school closure, which includes NC Pre-K and pre-K sites in public schools. Other child care settings are encouraged to stay open to meet demand for emergency child care.  
March 17 NAEYC releases preliminary results from a COVID-19 survey conducted among child care providers beginning March 12. Nationally, 30% of these respondents said they would not survive a closing longer than two weeks without financial support.  
Week of March 23Child Care Services Association (CCSA) launches COVID-19 Relief Fund for child care programs, in partnership with the North Carolina Smart Start network.  
March 31 Deadline for private child care centers and family child care homes in North Carolina to apply to stay open as emergency providers, which they must do in order to legally operate. Programs that do not apply are considered closed and are not eligible for some funding for this reason.  
April 3 NC DHHS and DCDEE announce that all subsidy payments to child care providers will be paid through March, April and May, regardless of whether the center or child care home is open or closed.  
April 10 The Bipartisan Policy Center releases results from a national poll of parents and guardians of young children who used child care in the last six months. Of parents who still need to use formal care, 63% reported difficulty finding care.  
April 22Harvard Center on the Developing Child publishes a statement paper titled “Thinking About Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Impacts Through a Science-Informed, Early Childhood Lens,” in light of data showing disproportionately high rates of hospitalization and severe illness for people of color.  
April 28DCDEE data shows that 56% of child care centers and 30% of family child care homes have closed since January in North Carolina.  
May 1 Employees of Walmart, Target, Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods and more walk off the job and ask customers to boycott as part of an International Workers Day strike.  
May 4Unemployment claims in North Carolina reach 1 million, which is 20% of the state’s workforce.
May 8Governor Cooper announces Phase 1 of re-opening plan. Phase 1 includes loosening of restrictions with some retail businesses re-opening at reduced capacity. Previously closed child care centers are allowed to reopen serving families with working parents or parents looking for work.

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood Blog Series

Introducing the Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood Series: What COVID-19 Teaches Us and What We Already Knew

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood: The Trouble with “Heroism”

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood: Unraveling May and June

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood: Providers Need Support to Cope with an Ever-Changing COVID-19 Reality

To be continued…

By Tanya Slehria, Communications Intern, and Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager, CCSA

May 8, 2020, is National Child Care Provider Appreciation Day, a day to recognize child care providers, teachers, and other educators of young children everywhere. Join CCSA in giving thanks to those who dedicate themselves every day to educating and caring for our youngest children. Especially now during COVID-19, they deserve more than just our thanks.

Child care providers are essential workers. COVID-19 has left them to operate in extreme circumstances while providing safe and loving care to the children of other essential workers. Please consider giving to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund launched in partnership with Smart Start to help child care programs in North Carolina either continue operating during this pandemic or be able to reopen once it’s safe again.

With your help, child care providers like Mary Lewis can continue to do what they love—teaching.

Mary[1] says “just watching children learn” is what she loves most about teaching. “Being able to adapt lesson plans on their level and teach them the way they need to learn, not the way I want to teach. Finding what works best for them on the individual level.”

Mary has been the director of the Children’s Center of First Baptist in Cary, N.C. for four years and just recently completed her Bachelor’s degree in December. “I have applied to UNC-G for the master’s program. I’m hoping to go all the way. I’m hoping to get a doctorate,” Mary said.

For Mary, her background sparked her career in early childhood education. “I grew up as a foster child and I’ve always looked for a way to advocate for children,” she said. As a director, Mary says she can “connect with [students] on all levels instead of just a few in the classroom.”

Her transition to teaching future teachers began with her desire to “see some changes in the early childhood college curriculum so [teachers] can be more prepared when we step in and be ready to go.” She says a change in curriculum can help teach future teachers “how to handle behavior issues [and] different things I feel like maybe we’re missing out on now in the current college curriculum.”

Mary’s favorite part of being a director is in her connections. “I love that I can connect with all the children, and all the families and the staff. My determination is to treat them the way I would want to be treated. I’ve worked for some directors that didn’t really care, you know. I really want to make a difference in [the staff’s] lives as much as the lives of the children, and T.E.A.C.H. allows me to do that,” Mary said.

As a participant in the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship program since 2014, Mary said, “I would never have completed three degrees without T.E.A.C.H.”

Her advice to those beginning a journey in early childhood education is, “to not settle. Not to just go get the paper [degree], but to go and get every piece of information offered by the colleges so you can really build yourself up and know you can help change the lives of children.” 

The most rewarding part of Mary’s experience is how she “can look back at the end of the day and say that I’ve accomplished this, or together we’ve accomplished this. Together, we’ve made a change.”

CCSA is grateful for child care providers like Mary for not just caring for and educating our youngest children, but for truly being the backbone of our economy. COVID-19 has shown the rest of America this, and we hope that the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund will help child care programs continue to care and educate our youngest after the pandemic. Say thanks to your child care provider and donate to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund today!


[1] This interview took place in January 2020.

by Allison Miller, Compensation Initiatives at CCSA, and Tanya Slehria, Communications Intern at CCSA

The world is an uncertain place right now due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). In response to the pandemic, Child Care Services Association (CCSA) launched the COVID-19 Relief Fund in partnership with Smart Start to help child care programs in North Carolina with urgent and long-term expenses during this time. Once the immediate crisis has passed, the fund may shift its focus to helping families pay for child care.

Amidst these unprecedented times, celebration is likely not the first thing on our minds. However, it is more important now than ever to remember the little things. Did you know National Coffee Day will be celebrated in September 2020? Or that National Donut Day is in June? These days, and many others like them, give us an opportunity to celebrate or enjoy these simple pleasures.

So, what is “Worthy Wage Day,” on May 1, 2020?

While early educators do not earn a worthy wage, this day gives us a chance to celebrate the early educators who work with young children and recognize that earning less than $11 per hour is unacceptable. We hope that teachers, families and communities across the country are taking advantage of this special day to raise their voices and say, “Enough is enough.”

Participants of CCSA’s education-based salary supplement programs, the Child Care WAGE$® Program and Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$®, often say they could not survive on their hourly wages alone. One teacher said the supplement is necessary for her to stay in early childhood because she was earning $3 more per hour working in retail. Retail jobs are absolutely important to our economy, especially once we reopen our stores and restaurants, but early childhood teachers are the workforce behind the workforce. We see this especially today as our early childhood educators allow our essential workers to be able to go to work during this health pandemic! They deserve to be compensated based on the value they bring. Not only do they allow parents to go to their jobs, but they also build the brains of our youngest children, children who will become citizens, leaders, future parents.

Child care is the backbone of our nation’s economy

The importance of early childhood educators cannot be overstated. The reasons they earn so little are complicated, but basically, parents simply cannot afford the cost of quality care, and without an external source of funding, such as public funding, teacher pay remains low. However, as science continues to illustrate the critical need for educated, stable early childhood teachers, there is hope that the field’s compensation will become front and center as future budget decisions are made. And as COVID-19 continues to spread, as we are experiencing now what the early childhood field has always known – child care is the backbone of our nation’s economy.

What does the research show?

We all know that positive early experiences are the building blocks of brain development and that our early childhood workforce is a critical component of this construction process. Stable and engaging relationships between young children and the adults in their lives can have a lifelong impact. As brain builders, early educators need scaffolding such as quality education, opportunities for professional development and fair compensation. With appropriate support, the early childhood workforce can provide the experiences necessary to build trust and promote learning.

To have quality care for children, teachers must be fairly compensated. A worthy wage would be a wage that acknowledges and celebrates their importance for growth and development in young children and allows them to stay in early childhood as a financially competitive profession. The supplements WAGE$ and AWARD$ offer are designed to recognize their retention and education and help address the salary gap.

Participants and employers know firsthand the importance of these incentives. One director said, “Child care teachers are not paid what they are worth. Therefore, centers have a great deal of turnover. The majority of my staff have been with me for years and I am very proud of that; WAGE$ helps them tremendously with that.”

These supplements would not be possible without the ongoing commitment and funding from local Smart Start partnerships that choose to invest in WAGE$, and the NC Division of Child Development (DCDEE). DCDEE provides funding to help support the administration of Child Care WAGE$® and is the sole funder for Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$®.

As one AWARD$ recipient said to DCDEE, “Thank you so much for seeing us for what we’re worth and helping take some financial stress off our plates. I truly feel well taken care of and appreciate the much-needed funds.”

Make it a priority

Teachers are worthy of fair compensation. It isn’t a question. On Worthy Wage Day, especially during the time of COVID-19, make it a priority to share your appreciation with teachers and to say to anyone who will listen that “enough is enough.”

How can you help?

Learn more about how you can help early childhood educators to either continue offering quality care to the children of essential workers or to reopen once it’s safe to, and to get the tools and resources they need during this challenging time.

If you are an early childhood provider

We are especially interested in your comments about how COVID-19 has affected you. You can submit stories of hopeful moments or have the chance to vent challenges by emailing us here.

By Allory Bors, Research Coordinator at Child Care Services Association

The devastation caused by a flood, a tornado or a contagious disease is called a natural disaster. We often believe that a certain amount of suffering, death or loss is natural as well, pre-determined by intangible forces. We can forget about the behind-the-scenes decisions made over years by our legislators, our institutions and our communities. Those decisions can either spiral isolated events into a crisis or provide enough support to deescalate disaster if, and when, it strikes. For decades, the early childhood field has called for fair compensation, comprehensive benefits, tuition assistance for families and more support for the early childhood field. For years, early educators have been “teetering on the brink,” and without support, a significant percentage of the state’s private centers could close their doors permanently even with just a few more weeks of closures.

The COVID-19 crisis is a moment unlike any other, in which the invisible, undervalued labor that breathes life into our country’s economy and infrastructure is exposed. As professionals, advocates, providers, parents and community members, we have a unique opportunity to understand the work of early childhood providers and the work of other essential functions, historically considered “unskilled,” as part of the same struggle. We also must stay vigilant to ensure that, as other essential workers receive the recognition, hazard pay, sick leave and increased compensation they so deserve, child care providers are not left by the wayside.

The history of our nation’s under-valued and under-resourced early childhood system is already set in stone, but our future is not. When this crisis reaches an end, whenever that may be, North Carolina has a responsibility to build a strong early childhood system that is prepared for any crisis. We don’t yet know what the future will hold for North Carolina’s early childhood field. But we do know this. Our state’s early childhood providers, whether they be in a child care center, a family child care home or on a Zoom call reading to their children in pre-K, are resilient and creative. They have helped families through homelessness, health crises and natural disasters like hurricanes Matthew and Florence. Early childhood providers have always been on the frontlines in our state.

We also know that our state’s vast network of early childhood non-profits, CCR&R agencies and advocates will work tirelessly to support providers and families. Here at Child Care Services Association (CCSA), we are deeply grateful to be able to continue working mostly remotely. So far, we have set up a COVID-19 Relief Fund for programs, turned a National Symposium into a Virtual Forum, made payments to our T.E.A.C.H., WAGE$, and AWARD$ recipients, staffed the statewide CCR&R hotline as a resource for essential workers to be connected with child care, continued our payments to Durham PreK sites, delivered technical assistance to programs, prepared meals for child care programs operating and just pledged to use our kitchen to work with Durham County to prepare meals for children and families. We will continue to do everything within our power to support our communities and our state as the situation unfolds.

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood will be a regularly updated blog series throughout the length of the international COVID-19 crisis. CCSA recognizes that we are all receiving information at hyper-speed. Each day is a new frontier, with new developments about the virus, new policies and emergency supports rolling out, and new strategies being used in both in-person and virtual classrooms. This information overdrive doesn’t always give us the time to slow down, connect with one another and consider how to move forward from a place of wisdom.

This series will be a place to do just that, to share what we’ve learned, chronicle impacts on the field and share our visions for the future. When the immediate COVID-19 crisis comes to an end, it will serve as an archive of how North Carolina’s early childhood field was impacted, and how advocates and providers stepped up to respond.

If you are an early childhood provider, we are especially interested in your comments about how COVID-19 has affected you. You can submit stories of hopeful moments or have the chance to vent challenges by emailing us here.


Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood Blog Series

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood: Making Sense of March and April

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood: The Trouble with “Heroism”

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood: Unraveling May and June

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood: Providers Need Support to Cope with an Ever-Changing COVID-19 Reality

To be continued…

by the Professional Development Initiatives Team at CCSA

As Child Care Services Association (CCSA) celebrates the Week of the Young Child, T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® North Carolina would like to recognize all early childhood programs that meet the needs of young children in our great state.  Early care and education teachers are essential to our communities, families and children, yet never has it been more evident than during the current world health crisis. While a number of careers have been classified as essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, early care and education teachers have been at the forefront of caring for one of the most vulnerable groups. 

As an early care and education teacher, you have made children feel safe during an uncertain time continuing to exhibit why you make a difference for young children. In 2012, The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® National Center at CCSA launched the “I Make A Difference” campaign, and today, through adversity, the early care and education community continues to demonstrate those 10 Ways I (You) Make A Difference. You have done so by:

  1. delivering high-quality early care and education to ensure all children are ready for school and life;
  2. helping all children to gain the early language and literacy skills to prepare them for reading;
  3. modeling respectful, nurturing relationships to help all children learn to work and play well with others;
  4. promoting cognitive development by posing questions and providing developmentally appropriate materials and activities that stimulate children’s interest in pondering ideas, posing theories, formulating thoughts, growing skills to support persistence and attentiveness to solving a problem and experimenting with materials;
  5. providing rich learning environments that promote children wanting to learn new things every day;
  6. supporting children’s understanding of key mathematical concepts;
  7. creating skill development opportunities that support children’s physical health and growth, including large and fine motor development and eye-hand coordination, healthy nutrition and children’s awareness of personal health and fitness;
  8. partnering with all families around their children’s development;
  9. allowing parents to work and supporting families’ contributions to our economy; and
  10. continuing your education to ensure you know the latest research and have the resources needed to be an effective teacher.

The world has witnessed your relentless commitment to the field as an essential worker, and as a result, has enhanced the public’s education of how essential early care and education professionals are to our community. Through this, may more advocates and champions rise up to fight for better compensation and recognition of the early childhood workforce and recognize the important role teachers have in ensuring children’s well-being.

By Allison Miller, CCSA Compensation Initiatives Team

When Davina Woods was asked how she became interested in early childhood, she said, “I entered the profession as an undercover helicopter mom! I had just placed my son in child care and I couldn’t stand not being there and seeing what and how he was doing.”

Her child’s center hired her as a part-time school-age group leader before she eventually found her calling with young children and their teachers. 

She started with no education and now she is in the master’s program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with the assistance of a T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® scholarship. After 25 years in the field, she loves her position as director of Excel Christian Academy, a five-star child care center in Alamance County, where she has been for 13 years.

“It has been a privilege to work in every single aspect of child care,” Davina said. “In every classroom, with every age group, in every position. I have fulfilled every duty from cook to van driver and it gives me perspective and appreciation. I love this viewpoint. I get the luxury of working with children, families and teachers.” 

Davina’s center prioritizes its teachers by providing a livable wage as well as other key benefits, which she knows most teachers are unable to access in this field. “And then they get WAGE$ and T.E.A.C.H. on top of that,” she said.

The Child Care WAGE$® (WAGE$) Program provides education-based salary supplements to low-paid teachers, directors and family child care providers working with children between the ages of birth to five. The program is designed to provide preschool children more stable relationships with better-educated teachers by rewarding teacher education and continuity of care.

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship (T.E.A.C.H.) Program addresses under-education, poor compensation and high turnover within the early childhood workforce by providing educational scholarships to early care professionals and those who perform specialized functions in the early care system.

“WAGE$ and T.E.A.C.H. are just part of who we are, part of the center’s make-up,” Davina said. “It is essential, imperative, to have an educated staff, especially here in the 21st century where children are not changing but the modes and methods of educating children are constantly evolving. Teachers must know best practices and know how to utilize the latest research and incorporate that into classrooms for the best outcomes for children.”

According to Davina, “WAGE$ is essential because it helps to boost teacher morale within the program. WAGE$ both encourages and motivates staff to increase their education. Additionally, WAGE$ provides a sense of healthy competition among team members as they see who can achieve the next level first.”

She said, “My teachers talk about the courses they take and they drive each other.” Three of her staff will graduate in December with their associate degree in early childhood education and they remind Davina of why she does what she does. “If I take great care of my team, they will take great care of the children.”

Thank you, Davina, for your support of the workforce and the Child Care WAGE$® Program.

Learn more about the Child Care WAGE$® Program here.

Learn more about the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship (T.E.A.C.H.) Program here.