(via WBEZ) Many home-based child care programs have been stretched beyond their limits during the pandemic, reports WEBZ Chicago Public Radio. Some saw attendance drop, but had to maintain full service with less money.
Teresa Ramos, vice president of public policy and advocacy with Illinois Action for Children, says the home child care system has long been vulnerable.
“Even outside of the pandemic, they were front-ending dollars, borrowing from their retirement, their other savings from their homes in order to keep open,” she said.
Ramos says a key problem for providers is the different funding streams from the state. There’s one central agency that handles public schooling in Illinois, but that doesn’t exist for home child care providers. That’s forced them to split their time navigating complicated systems of licensing and subsidy payments while caring for children. That’s not usually the case at child care centers.
In Illinois, an early childhood commission recently recommended an annual investment of more than $12 billion and a centralized agency that would benefit day cares. Currently, that funding is just under $2 billion to pay for child care subsidies for low-income families and state-funded preschool programs. The commission recommends the extra funds to go toward things like better pay and benefits for workers, expanded services for low-income families, increased staff and expanded language and mental health services.
Ramos says improving the state’s child care system is also an issue of equity. The majority of home daycare workers are women of color. She also says it’s often parents who work outside of the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day that rely on home-based child care.
“If the governor’s office and the General Assembly are bold, [steps] can be taken every year to build towards a new agency and build towards that $12 billion additional investment that we need,” Ramos said. “And to streamline some of the convoluted nature of how we deliver dollars to providers and families.”
Ramos says Illinois is doing better than other states in early childhood investments, but she doesn’t think the economy can fully recover if that network of providers and parents aren’t adequately supported.
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