Blog

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 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.


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: Making Sense of March and April

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 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.

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 Tanya Slehria, Communications Intern at CCSA

The world as we know it has changed due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Our daily routines, jobs and activities have all had to adjust to a “new normal.” During these uncertain and unprecedented times, many are scrambling for resources and unable to make ends meet.

In response, 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 pandemic. This fund will eventually shift focus to helping families pay for child care once the immediate crisis has passed. 

GivingTuesday is usually celebrated during the holiday season, but given the current state of global crisis, May 5 has been dedicated as a special day of giving and unity in emergency response to COVID-19. #GivingTuesdayNow is a global generosity movement to drive citizen engagement, business and philanthropy activation, and support for communities and nonprofits around the world.

It just so happens that #GivingTuesdayNow falls on National Teacher Appreciation Day, a day that we especially love to celebrate and recognize at CCSA. Teachers educate and shape our young children, and early childhood educators are some of the most patient, dedicated and hard-working individuals in the workforce. Child care is the backbone of our nation’s economy; that has become even more apparent with the spread of COVID-19. It is more important than ever to remember that child care providers are essential workers. Our dependence on child care is crucial to the regular function of so many other jobs and industries.

We want to remind you amidst all the uncertainty to take today to appreciate the teachers who work selflessly to mold children’s lives in a positive direction, ensuring the success of their future‚ of our future. Take time to say a special “Thank You” to an exceptional teacher and recognize them for the inspiring work they do.

In addition, please consider donating to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund so we can continue to support the backbone of our nation’s economy and protect early education that is vital to the development of children. Donate to help child care programs stay open now to educate and care for the children of other essential workers and reopen after families begin to return to work outside of their homes.

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 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 Kay Ducharme, Regional CCR&R Senior Manager at Child Care Services Association

Part III: Why is data important?

For Child Care Services Association (CCSA), collecting data about the impact and effects of high quality child care is one of the most important things we can do for early childhood educators, young children and families. To that end, we talk to educators and families daily, collecting an enormous amount of data to analyze the needs of families and early childhood educators. In fact, we are the only organization in North Carolina that collects data on child care supply and demand. This information helps us strengthen and innovate the child care system for families, child care providers, programs and communities.

Yet, I am often asked why we have to collect all of this data. In short, data is absolutely vital to ensuring that all children have access to high quality child care led by educated and motivated teachers.

For example, recent data indicates decreases in the number of classrooms, family child care homes and the total number in the child care workforce. Since child care resource and referral (CCR&R) is the only system that collects data on both supply and demand, we continue to help families locate child care as the supply decreases and the need increases. We also work to help start-up new programs to fill gaps where the supply of child care is limited. Our data can be used to help us advocate for change in public policy. And we need data to accurately tell the story of what families and providers across North Carolina need to strengthen services for families and the early childhood education field.

Federal funds to support CCR&R are a part of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The state’s Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) defines goals each year for the Council to help North Carolina meet federal block grant requirements. Regional CCR&R Lead Agencies receive funding from the Council to provide services in the 14 CCR&R regions based on population, community and child care demographics, workforce numbers and number of classrooms in the region, etc. The Council reports outcomes, outputs and demographics to DCDEE each year. These reports enable us to analyze customer needs and identify gaps in services and trends in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Statewide in FY19, the NC CCR&R system data indicated that the 14 regions trained 24,180 early educators; 3,077 of those training participants received CEUs. In addition to training, CCR&R agencies provided technical assistance to 6,171 classrooms/homes and consumer education and/or consultation to 21,738 households across the state. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of families surveyed said they used quality indicators when choosing child care and 97% of the families surveyed indicated that they chose a 3-5 star rated child care program after using CCR&R services. By collecting data in a consistent manner using defined data sets, data is monitored to ensure reliability.

To access a membership to the website for CCR&R staff, please contact Mary Erwin, NC CCR&R Council Coordinator at Child Care Services Association, here.

For more in-depth knowledge of the CCR&R system, training sessions are available each year throughout the state for new staff. The final one for this fiscal year will be held in Greenville, N.C., at the Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children, April 23 at 9:30 a.m. You can register for the training session here.

To read the first part of this series on what the statewide CCR&R is, click here.

To read the second part of this series on what the NC CCR&R Council is, click here.