This brings back to the fore front of my mind something I mentioned several months ago. When all of this started back in the spring, DHS begged providers to stay open and provide care for Oklahoma’s children so that essential workers would have a place to take their children. Many of the ones I know have stayed open through all or most of this pandemic. Most of them lost significant amounts of income and faced increased expenses due to the increased cleaning and other protocols associated with the pandemic. Dozens of programs ended up closing down and not re-opening; leaving families all over the state without quality child care.
What is being done to protect these essential workers? The short answer is: nothing really. Much talk and action has been taken to protect teachers and office workers (and rightfully so); but early childhood educators have basically been expected to continue on as usual-other than the new protocols they now have to implement to help keep themselves and the children safe. They are the ones who are watching school-age children who are involved in virtual learning. They are already severely underpaid and many of them are uninsured or underinsured. Then what happens if they get sick? They are more than likely then going to be in severe medical debt.
I don’t pretend to have any idea what the answers are for this, but I do firmly believe that we should all stand together and demand better wages for these people. Many of them have just as much education as public school teachers and make a small fraction of what those teachers are paid-and we already know THEY are underpaid as well. The people taking care of our youngest population deserve to make much better wages than they do. They are forming the next generation of people. Don’t believe me? Look into some research on all of the development that happens in a child’s first three to five years of life.
Let’s stand together and ask for better. Child care in this country (and especially this state) is in severe crisis.