The Impact of Child Care Provider Services
CPPR was happy to be a partner in Child Care Aware of America’s Provider Appreciation Day campaign for 2022. To celebrate child care providers, we highlighted the relationships between providers and the families they serve in our guest post, “Provider Appreciation Begins with Listening.” We want to continue to support this imperative of centering providers’ experiences as they provide the necessary care that can positively impact a family’s wellness and wellbeing.
In Kansas, CPPR collaborates with several government agencies and non-profit and community organizations to see the trends, dynamics, and challenges of child care from the perspective of providers. In this work, we’ve learned of numerous individualized ways that child care providers help meet families’ diverse needs. Two particularly appreciated contributions are part-time care and resources that support kindergarten readiness. These specific care provisions are deeply integrated into the daily operations of most providers, and they offer adaptive support to families who each have their own specific child care needs.
Read more below to learn of each contribution through the perspective and experiences of two Kansas child care providers, Kelli Hernandez, owner of Kritter Creek Childcare LLC in Valley Falls, KS; and Pakhong Sakounlaphoum, owner of Little Hearts Montessori LLC in Overland Park, KS.
Part-time care supports U.S workforce participation
Child care providers were always uniquely positioned to see how their care for a child’s well-being extended into a family’s financial security. And for parents and caregivers who need to arrange care for specific periods like parents who work non-traditional work hours or who are employed part-time to reduce and manage the cost of child care, part-time care options offer critical and immediate support for families.
“Part-time care is frequently requested from parents who work in certain industries and services or from parents who just need the support of part-time care to manage their household needs,” said Pakhong Sakounlaphoum. “Little Hearts offers a good range of flexibility on days and hours during the program year, but that all depends on me having part-time help as well. I need an assistant teacher who can help support the flux and needs of students who are enrolled part-time. Every service option I provide heavily depends on ever-changing factors and adjustments, and it’s a constant juggle to provide part-time care and maintain full enrollment. I offer it because I know it’s how so many families get by.”
The challenges of finding child care during the pandemic drove many people out of the workforce, and the greater job losses occurred among women, who assume the majority of caregiving responsibilities. Nearly 3.5 million mothers with school-aged children left active work between March and April in 2020.Another analysis found that maternal labor force participation rates were 3 percentage points lower in child care deserts than in areas that could meet the demand for licensed child care. For many parents and caregivers, part-time child care is the support that helps them maintain their employment while navigating the gaps between the school day or other care arrangements and their work schedules, and child care providers provide the assistance they need to balance their work and family responsibilities.
Kindergarten readiness depends on a child’s early social and emotional development
Licensed home- or centered-based child care introduces children to their first social learning environment. According to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, early childhood settings and experiences critically shape the development of a child, which provide the foundation of social and emotional skills that best prepares children for kindergarten. In the 2019 Kansas Early Childhood Systems Building Needs Assessment, only 35 percent of Kansas public school districts responding to a pre-K survey had a formal transition plan or process for kindergarten readiness, and many child care providers frequently fill the gap without an accessible public option.
“Most people underestimate how important early childhood is in forming habits and skills. This is the perfect age to introduce social interaction and emotional awareness,” said Sakounlaphoum. “We are setting a solid foundation for children’s learning by developing their social and emotional skills so children can express themselves on what they want or need, and learn how to express their thoughts and feelings while being respectful of others.”
As one of the 2021 Kindergarten Readiness Quality Subgrant recipients, Kelli Hernandez used the grant funding to provide home-based kindergarten readiness resources and activities for families after she saw the growing behavioral and emotional management needs of her clients during the pandemic.
Kritter Creek Childcare LLC hosted family engagement events centered on emotional awareness and regulation and other criterion for kindergarten readiness. At the events, Kritter Creek introduced parents and caregivers to the Ages & Stages Questionnaire screening tools ASQ-3 and ASQ-2SE, which provide reliable and accurate information on the development process and socio-emotional health for children from birth through age five and works as a referral tool for families to connect with the services and supports they may need.
“When our program surveyed parents on how many had seen an ASQ prior to our project, there were a large number of our families who had never seen either screening tool. There were also several who said they received the ASQ-3 at the child’s well check appointment but never the ASQ-2-SE. Even when receiving the ASQ-3 at appointments, they were not aware of the why or what to do with it,” said Hernandez. “We’ve put a lot of effort in educating families on these socio-emotional health resources and to put these screening tools into as many families’ hands as possible with the proper support. Families need to understand what they need to be looking for and/or working on towards when preparing their children for school.”
High-quality child care has enormous positive impacts on a child’s development. And child care providers routinely provide a structured, safe environment for children to learn and grow while also supporting caregivers and parents with resources to make their learning journeys more secure.
Provider impact on family well-being
For every family to get the access to the kind of care they need, part-time care and kindergarten readiness resources are two significant contributions from child care providers that expand and reverberate beyond their service hours. And the pandemic continues to shed light on how child care providers play a vital role in our economy, and how a disruption of their services can lead to devastating outcomes without support. According to a survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, more than 20,000 day care facilities closed permanently due to disruptions and closures prompted by the pandemic, and nearly half of the survey respondents of providers reported they could not survive a closure of more than two weeks without subsidized assistance. Without stable child care, we leave many families at the margins of their resources and limited choices.
“Family well-being exists when families are safe, supported and educated on how to prepare their children to live in the world. By offering families our services and additional resources and learning opportunities, we support parents and caregivers who are often overcome with feeling like they don’t provide enough for their children and households,” said Hernandez.
“The pandemic has really emphasized and stressed how interconnected we all are, and the work of teaching and caregiving encompasses so much,” added Sakounlaphoum. “Something as small as teaching a child to hold a pencil leads to their next steps of progress. I see the impact of these small measures every day in my work. By supporting parents, I know I’m supporting the larger community.”
Child care is an essential service that can determine the welfare and well-being of children and families, and to make the necessary systemic changes, we need the voices and perspectives of child care providers who continue to work largely without the recognition and support they deserve despite all they contribute.