As stay-at-home orders loosen and businesses prepare to reopen, working parents may soon face tough choices about child care over the summer.
When the pandemic first began, some families benefited from having more bonding time. But in a new survey conducted by the McLean County YWCA, child care topped the list among clients’ greatest and most urgent concerns.
“A lot of people are just grappling with the ‘what ifs,' and when kids need consistency, just like adults do, the what ifs can be incredibly stressful,” said Melissa Breeden, senior director for the YWCA’s Young Wonders early childhood program. “A lot of them need child care but they're not sure what that would look like, and they don’t know when they're going back to work. So it's just a very confusing time for everybody.”
As a nonprofit affected by the loss of face-to-face interaction, YWCA CEO and President Liz German said conducting the survey of 362 clients was important for them to figure out how to carry on.
“We lost that immediate interaction with people, so it was important that we reach out to really get a sense of how our clients were doing, what their needs were, and how to respond to those needs,” said German.
The YWCA asked, “What needs do you have right now?” Child care (31% of respondents) topped the list. German said she wasn’t surprised.
“Just because a family can watch their child at home while they work and balance all of their responsibilities, doesn't mean it’s the absolute best environment for that child 24/7,” she said.
The survey also asked about clients’ future needs. The top responses were child care, money to help pay bills, housing, and food, according to the YWCA.
Summer Camp Registration Now Open
While many other child care centers remain closed, YWCA’s Young Wonders program has continued to offer emergency care for essential workers’ families. It’s now registering families for the Young Wonders Summer Camp, which begins June 1.
“There are a lot of things that we can offer as far as academic, social, and emotional support and being able to interact with peers that obviously, you can't do from home. So when you're really thinking about the mental health of the whole family, that break is needed. I think it’s a service that's needed and wanted and as long as we can do it, we will,” she added.
With many working from home and services being limited, German says a big challenge parents are facing right now is moving forward during uncertainty.
“For example, we had between 300 and 400 families that were registered in March, not knowing what employment looks like, if they're going to lose their job and if they do lose their job or get partial hours, will they lose any sort of assistance they might have? Then there’s the Child Care Assistance Program, but you have to work a minimum number of hours to continue that assistance. So trying to navigate through the potential unemployment aspect and how that affects child care while you're looking to get a new job, I think that is a concern for parents,” she said.
Breeden said it was critical they continued to offer Young Wonders Summer Camp.
“We have very passionate teachers, and one of our biggest passions is just making sure kids are on track developmentally. When you think about how long some of them have not been in an academic setting, they could be falling behind, which can lead to a lot of other things in their home environment,” she said. “We really just want to make sure that parents have access to child care, so honestly we didn't think twice about having a summer camp. We just had to think about how that was going to look and how we would be able to serve the kids as safely as possible,” she said.
Breeden said registration is going well. Parents are grateful to have the option.
“We were able to be in two District 87 schools this summer so that's definitely going to help,” she said. “What's great about YWCA is that our building is large, so with the small class sizes we’re able to serve more kids than other programs may be able to,” she said. “We’re really grateful that we're able to serve more children that need the service.”
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