Early childhood education and childcare are essential for working families and our community’s economic prosperity. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated already existing barriers to women’s economic participation, and further highlighted inequities that exist for families of color.
Worldwide, statistics show an unprecedented number of women leaving the workforce to care for their children who were either learning remotely or had childcare facilities shut down. From March 2020 to March 2021, 1,773 fewer children were enrolled in childcare programs in York County. The childcare crisis is due to many factors – including a lack of staffing and low wages. To make matters worse, 35 York County programs have permanently or temporarily closed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Programs that are open are operating at reduced capacity due to the staffing crisis, and many programs are only able to serve 50% of the children they served pre-pandemic. With those alarming statistics, YCCF awarded a grant to Child Care Consultants (CCC) from the COVID-19 Response Fund to help with the recruitment and onboarding of employees in an effort to address York County’s early childhood education (ECE) staffing shortages.
“With the funding from YCCF, CCC will recruit job applicants, pay for the required clearances, facilitate trainings, and provide six months of coaching and mentoring support,” shared Christy Renjilian, Executive Director at Child Care Consultants, who anticipates serving around one hundred applicants with this grant. “Research proves that investments in high-quality early childhood education have a return on investment of 1:13, meaning, for every $1 invested, there is a $13 savings in costs associated with special education, truancy, juvenile delinquency, incarceration, under and unemployment,” says Christy.
CCC understands that this is a community-wide effort and serves as co-chair for the York County Recovery Task Force Child Care and Education Committee in partnership with York County Economic Alliance. By collaborating with other organizations in the community, CCC is hoping that 50% of the individuals remain employed in an ECE program by the end of their first six months and also aims to encourage at least 10% of employees to enroll in a degree program.
“We are tracking staffing and enrollment of participating ECE programs with a goal of programs maintaining full enrollment once fully staffed” shared Christy, understanding that you can only take one step at a time.