23 Sep Community Voices: “Childcare and COVID-19”
By Sabrina Wilson
“Community Voices” is a series of blog posts to elevate community voices, especially those of people of color. We invited individuals, without stipulations or rules, to submit their writings and we paid them for their time. We wanted to offer this space for them to share a first person account of what the last six months has been like for them. We value their thoughts and ideas. The content in this blog post is a reflection of the personal and professional experiences of the writer. The views and opinions of the guest contributors are their own. To contact the author, please see the end of the piece.
When I think about the pandemic, all I can think about is the pressure. The pressure to wash children’s hands, to space them apart, to make sure they wear masks, and to count the number of kids I can watch safely in a day. I have to be so careful. It’s like walking on pins and needles. Even the educational activities I do with kids are second guessed. Are we able to do water play now? Or is that something we can only do in phase 3? Are we in phase 3, or did Charlottesville decide to stay in phase 2? Can I hug that crying child, or does that put me at risk? Every little cough makes me wonder, does that child have COVID? Every time I take a child’s morning temperature I think, will we ever get back to normal?
I Am Just One Person
I run a 24-hour daycare out of my home called WonderLand DayCare. I’ve been doing this for 29 years. I’m licensed by the Department of Social Services, and I’m meeting all of the requirements of the CDC for COVID-19. I pay for all of the supplies required to meeting licensing standards out of my own pocket – hand sanitizer, paper towels, Clorox, baby gates, kid-height chairs and tables, educational toys, books, baby beds that meet safety standards, and water temperature control valves. It’s not cheap. And, kids tear things apart, so I have to keep spending my own money to replace things regularly.
I am one of only nine family home daycares in the Charlottesville area that is approved as a subsidized childcare vendor, a benefit for families who don’t make enough money to pay for childcare on their own. The reason so few daycares accept subsidy children is because the state doesn’t pay enough for their care. For a 12-hour shift, as an in-home daycare, I am paid by the State of Virginia just $25 to $30 per day. Childcare centers receive $50 per day as a subsidy, double what I make in a day. But, I am one person doing all of the things a childcare center does with multiple staff members. I do all of the paperwork, the cleaning, the safety checks and – the most important thing – the actual care of young, vulnerable children.
Children Are Getting Lost
No one goes into childcare for the money. There is no money. I don’t get raises. I do this because I love kids. And yet, the state said they were going to help essential workers. Nurses and doctors are very important. Firefighters and police officers are important. Even grocery store workers and postal employees are being called heroes. But, what about the daycare providers? Without us, they can’t work. Daycare providers are essential workers too.
I need somebody to pay attention. I don’t care as much about me. What I care about is that children are getting lost. I see so many kids who are growing up with no structure, or whose parents are so worried being able to pay bills that they aren’t able to be with their kids. A lot of kids don’t have the nourishment or the love they need at home. Teachers don’t have the time to bring up children. Their hands are full. But, I have the time. Daycare providers have the time and the love to give children. I deserve to be paid fairly for my time.
I am a black woman who has raised four successful children – a doctor, a counselor, a nurse and a chef. Before I leave this earth I want to see families pick themselves up. People are paying attention to Black Lives Matter. That’s wonderful. Can we also say, Children’s Lives Matter? And more than say it, can we show it?