Child care was a challenge for many families long before the pandemic. Prior to covid, over 50% of daycares had no or little online presence even though the vast majority of this tech savvy generation was searching for care online. This was making these businesses totally undiscoverable to modern parents who search for and select caregivers on the internet.
As a parent, I felt this pain firsthand. When I set out to found my company 5 years ago, I thought I could fix that. I aimed to build a platform that would bring parents and providers together in one system, nationally. But getting providers to use online tools was hard, even with a free product. For many of the smallest home-based providers, they ran their business offline. They recruited new families via word of mouth in their community. They kept records on paper or in a spreadsheet. What this meant was that these businesses were not being run very efficiently resulting in the decreasing number of licensed home-based child care businesses. Every year there were fewer and fewer affordable, high quality options for families across the country.
Covid has accelerated the tech literacy of everyone. As a country, we have all had to figure out video conferencing, connecting online, and even virtual learning. So many groups have demonstrated tremendous resilience in the face of all these new challenges. The child care industry has been one of the most resilient.
The child care industry was hit hard by the pandemic. As many parents changed child care arrangements due to the pandemic, providers lost income. A study early in the pandemic conducted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, found two in five child care providers would have to close permanently without relief. Relief never really came to most providers, so providers were forced to adapt and figure out how to recruit new families.
But adapt they did! We’re now seeing providers who never even had a webpage, recruit all their families online, set up virtual tours online, and even enroll without ever meeting in person. Most of the time change is slow but sometimes it happens all at once. It is incredible to witness how an entire industry adapted to the new ways parents are discovering and connecting with daycare nearby, online.
They also adapted their businesses to follow new Covid-19 health and safety guidelines. Many are maintaining small consistent ratios of staff and children, implementing social distancing between cohorts, and masking. While many public schools across the country went virtual, child care providers remained open and figured out how to do so as safely as possible.
As parents, let’s never forget the incredible resilience shown by our early educators in adapting to the pandemic and continuing to provide care for our children. There is no replacement for the essential service they provide. They are helping raise this next generation of citizens, the ones who will be called on to prevent and fight the next pandemic.