As Carney issued his emergency order that shut down restaurants, retail stores, and hundreds of other businesses to stop the initial outbreak of COVID-19, state officials quickly learned how vital child care centers were to ensuring “essential workers” could stay on the job.
“Within moments, we were elevated to the essential workforce, along with those in health care and other industries. We became frontline workers,” said Schneider, owner of the Educational Enrichment Center in Wilmington.
“Child care has no virtual model. Parents who were on the front lines and keeping our economy going needed child care to continue to do their vital work,” she said. “We have shown up every day since then, ready to continue to be the workforce behind the workforce.”
Carney said the new federal support will recognize the work of those who care for and educate the youngest Delawareans.
“One of the things that we learned over the last 20 months is that there are portions of our workforce and our economy that in some ways we take for granted,” he said.
Health care workers and even grocery store employees have received recognition of the important roles they play in keeping communities running, Carney said.
“In order for all those frontline workers to go to work, there have to be people that are caring and educating their children,” he said. “That’s what this really is all about, resources to make that industry stronger and to keep it strong, resources to attract new workers to our early education system, resources to keep all of that moving so the rest of the economy can move and be successful.”
“We are a workforce primarily of women, primarily of Black, Indigenous women of color, many of whom like myself are single mothers, many of whom rely on government subsidy programs because they make just over the minimum wage,” said Schneider, who is also executive director of the Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children.
“There are rarely benefits, there is rarely paid time off, and it is a highly skilled … professional workforce that is responsible for creating the social and emotional educational foundation that children need,” she said.
In an effort to create more workers to care for Delaware’s kids, $10.6 million in federal money will help fund the new Early Childhood Innovation Center at Delaware State University in Dover. With additional money from the state Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Services, the new center will receive a total of $30 million over the next five years.