Child care workers are essential in this pandemic. We need to pay them that way

Because of COVID-19, the way we work doesn’t look the same. As every profession has had to adapt, early childhood professionals have been especially resilient. Since March, early care and education programs have reinvented themselves almost daily to care for and educate Delaware’s youngest learners — all while making, on average, $11.60 an hour.

More than 50% of Delaware’s child care programs chose to function as emergency sites to support essential personnel working during the state’s shutdown. Staying open was no easy task. Early childhood professionals took on numerous new responsibilities. They were tasked with new administrative work to receive this “emergency” designation and required to adopt new safety and health procedures all while supporting children and families during this difficult time.

As the state entered Phase 1 and Phase 2 of reopening, even more family child care and center-based child care programs reopened to support working families. Health and safety requirements were also added and updated as we learned more about COVID-19. A typical day now includes greeting families at the door, conducting a health screening for every child, increased hand-washing, teaching children to practice social distancing and ensuring children wear face coverings when possible.  All these measures are taking place while children learn through play. 

And now, with many schools opening remotely, Delaware’s early childhood professionals are again stepping up to create innovative child care solutions for working families. Programs are offering child care and support for remote learning during the school day. 

The pandemic highlights the importance of high-quality child care programs to our state’s success and the need to increase the investment in our young children and early childhood professionals. During these unprecedented times, let us remember to appreciate and value Delaware child care programs’ important work. Let us also seek policy solutions to increase early childhood professionals’ compensation to ensure they are paid their worth.

This article is an opinion editorial written by DIEEC Director Rena Hallam that appeared in DelawareOnline.