Letter: Early childhood pros deserve recognition, support
It’s been over one year since COVID-19 started and about six months since the wildfire devastated our community. We have since seen countless examples of heroism locally from firefighters to public health professionals.
While we continue to celebrate these individuals, another group of professionals should be in our hearts and minds: Early Childhood Professionals. Even before COVID-19, early childhood providers were essential workers, but this past year has shown that these professionals are willing to jump an incredible number of hurdles to stay open, keep children safe and cared for, support families, and serve as a critical piece of economic infrastructure in our community.
Early childhood providers have had to:
• Clean and disinfect numerous toys and surfaces that young children touch and put in their mouths everyday after a full day with children. No custodial department.
• Get every child over age two to wear masks all day. Lift and play energetically with young children all day wearing a mask themselves. Then, teach social-emotional skills to children (many not yet verbal) with everyone’s faces covered.
• Reduce their enrollment/class sizes due to COVID-19 regulations. Then keep operating on that reduced revenue while maintaining required teacher:child ratios.
• Stay open regardless of “dial levels” with no hazard pay. Health benefits are rare. They accepted the risk and kept showing up, making, on average, $26,875/year.
• Bare the invisible weight of a year marred by strained relationships. Their families lost routines, income, and homes. Early childhood providers were there, feeling their struggles and disappointment with them, absorbing their hurt.
Child care is so much more than just a place for kids to go while adults work. An early childhood program is a specifically-designed environment ran by highly-skilled professionals who are helping to raise children to be emotionally-intelligent, problem-solving, compassionate human beings during their most critical years of brain development.
This year, in particular, has shown how dependent our economy is on this sector. Early childhood providers are the workforce behind the workforce. Everybody is dependent on somebody that depends on child care.
Thank you early childhood professionals — we see you, and we are so grateful.
— Katy Hale, executive director of Grand Beginnings
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