A child care crisis is in the offing both in the United States and around the world as school-age children stay home for the new school year and working parents face the prospect of more state interference
Greater Albany Public Schools (GAPS) Superintendent, Melissa Goff, is calling on county commissioners to allocate funding for oversight of “suitable child care options” for the families of the 9,000 children enrolled in the small city’s K-12 system, who are now proscribed from their regular classrooms and will be forced to “attend” school on a screen come September.
Among other suggestions she offered municipal authorities, Goff also urged Commissioners to “explore” hiring more mental health therapists “for home visits” and the creation of a “child care task force.” GAPS lost two-thirds of its funding due to the pandemic, according to the Corvallis Gazette-Times, and is simply throwing out ideas about how the county can work with them on “areas related to the closure.”
The COVID-19 lockdowns that have persisted since first decreed in March, have now come home to roost, almost literally. Summer vacation has come to an end, but the kids are still home while many parents – or at least those who are still employed – are gradually returning to work as the phased “re-opening” continues.
In early August, a group of the three Linn County commissioners, Roger Nyquist, John Lindsey, and Will Tucker, made a “Declaration of Local Emergency” to address school reopening issues and children, in general, citing a “serious threat to the peace, health and welfare of the children of Linn County.” The one-page document was a response by the County commissioners to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s decision to keep schools closed. “Unfortunately, it’s still not enough.”, said the Governor when pressed about re-opening physical classrooms. “Our infection rate is still too high,” she asserted.
Out of chalk
Just north of Albany, cities are facing similar problems as a recent study carried out by the Child Care Collaborative Task Force of Washington State found. According to the report, nearly one in five parents have turned down a job over child care issues and, of these, Black and Native American parents were affected most.
The pandemic-induced shutdowns have left “historic” numbers of Washington state residents out of work or are facing new and inconvenient circumstances at their places of employment. But, the return of the school year adds another major complication for families, even if they can find child care or do it themselves.
“Many workers with children, especially women, will exit the labor force without safe, affordable child care options, “says task force member Amy Anderson, who doesn’t believe the state will recover economically without it.
The study reports that almost half of unemployed people (47 percent) find that having “child care issues” is a barrier to landing a job or even an interview, further exacerbating the problems brought on by the shutdowns, which forced the closure of one in five child care providers.
The child care crisis
According to Child Care Aware of Washington, a child care advocacy group, over half a million children under the age of 12 have no “licensed child care” because the state cannot meet the demand of Washington state working parents, who represent 60 percent of the families with children 0-12.
The lack of child care opportunities as a result of the extraordinary measures taken to protect public health is being felt around the country and the world. In California, the problem of meeting the child care needs of working families, the same classrooms that are forbidden to children as students are being opened to them as child care facilities. In Australia, the lockdowns and changes to federal subsidies by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s personal COVID-19 commission have placed the future of Melbourne’s child care centers in peril.
From Albany, Oregon to Melbourne, Australia, the reshuffling of societal norms continues under the banner COVID-19 and now, as the lockdowns hit school children it is imperative that we follow Melissa Goff’s advice – though not her ideas, necessarily – and contact our local leaders with our own “ideas surrounding child care.”, if we want to avoid the worst ideas, which often come from politicians like Scott Morrison, who had to quickly retract his comments that a COVID-19 vaccine would be “as mandatory as you can possibly make it.”
Feature photo | A Los Angeles Unified School District student raises her hand for free lunch at Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood in Los Angeles, Aug. 26, 2020. Jae C. Hong | AP
Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker