Texas Early Childhood Leaders Jump Into Action in Response to COVID-19

Texas Early Childhood Leaders Jump Into Action in Response to COVID-19

Original Publish Date: March 23, 2020

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic unfold across American states and communities, one thing has become clear: child care is one of the most critical institutions for employers, families, and overall public health. Many communities across the country are hastily working each day to ensure this industry is well-supported amid the spreading fear and uncertainty; leaders are developing local plans to adapt to community needs, to offer support to providers, prevent permanent child care closures, and ultimately to minimize the adverse effects on the industry. In Texas, early care and education (ECE) and public health leaders are joining forces to meet the child care needs of their communities. 

As one example of these efforts, Tarrant County has launched the Tarrant County Child Care Task Force to help with assessing and meeting targeted needs of its local ECE industry. This Task Force is made up of city and county leadership, the local workforce board, Child Care Licensing, Head Start, Child Care Management Services (the local public child care assistance program), and the Tarrant County Public Health department. Additionally, the community developed a Tarrant County Child Care Response Network of local providers, philanthropic partners, chambers of commerce, United Way, and other social service organizations to coordinate community resources for child care. These entities also represent the Early Learning Alliance (ELA), a community collaborative focused on building the foundation that children ages 0-5 need to succeed in school and in life. To ensure clear communication and alignment across the community, the Task Force and the Response Network are coordinating and connecting on a daily basis. 

Developing a Plan, Remaining Flexible 

Locally, the community is taking the following targeted steps toward not only crisis-managing the state of the local child care industry, but also to prepare for what may lie ahead:

  1. Gathering and disseminating helpful guidance, tools, online training, resources, and printable materials through a publicly accessible web folder for providers that serve children and families. 

  2. Building a list of targeted facilities that could be used for emergency care for essential workers.

  3. Identifying single points of contact at local hospitals to help identify staff needs.

  4. Tracking requests and needs from early childhood providers and programs. The spreadsheet is viewable here.

Meanwhile, the community is compelled by the current crisis to expedite solution-finding for a challenge it has dealt with for a long time – tracking availability of child care. Ultimately, two levels of attack are currently being prepared in order to develop a better picture of child care openings and availability:

Level One Response: Immediate Needs –Utilize existing child care availability for families working in critical industries. Community partners in Tarrant County are building a simple database to track and share open child care providers, hours of operation, the number of available seats, along with other basic measures, to match critical industry workers in need of childcare with available child care seats.

Level Two Response: Long Term – Identify existing child care locations with which to contract, and open critical industry child care centers utilizing the existing, local child care workforce, recognizing child care as one of these critical industries. Early Learning Alliance partners are working together to configure an existing technology platform as a potential solution for sharing this information in an accessible and regulated manner.

These are challenging tasks, but the community is fortunate to have built strong and trusting partnerships across the community; collaboration and solidarity can make these plans a reality.

Urging the State to Act

Additionally, through the coordination of Texans Care for Children, communities across Texas united to sign onto a letter to Congress requesting support for child care in the next COVID-19 relief package, detailing the importance of child care to support critical industries functioning at their best to help fight the spread of COVID-19. This letter requested that members of the Texas Congressional Delegation:

  • Provide flexible emergency funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), Head Start, and Early Head Start to ensure minimal disruptions in these critical services for low-income families.

  • Ensure child care providers who are closed have access to federal funding that will allow them to pay staff and cover fixed costs.

  • Ensure that child care providers who are staying open during the crisis have the support and supplies necessary to do so and that the children attending their programs – particularly children of first responders, health care providers, and other essential personnel – are receiving quality assistance.

  • Provide federal assistance to establish and provide paid sick and family leave for child care workers during this public health emergency.

  • Accompany all child care system closures with additional, necessary policies and funding that allows for access to unemployment compensation for all staff who work in center-based child care or own/operate/are staff of family child care homes.

  • Provide funding to cover the increased risks, pay, and costs of maintaining services to support child care programs that are being asked to remain open to serve essential and front-line workers.

  • Ensure emergency, disaster funding under the Stafford Act has the flexibility to provide direct funding assistance to all types of child care providers (including, home-based, center-based, non-profit and for-profit) to address immediate needs such as emergency staffing, costs associated with cleaning and sanitizing facilities, and providing training and support to staff.

Sharing Knowledge and Resources 

Recognizing the need to communicate about these efforts in a meaningful way, not only to child care providers but also to other professionals that support families and their young children, the Early Learning Alliance hopes to utilize the Early Childhood Connector platform as an opportunity to do so. The situation in Tarrant County, as in many others, is fluid; hence, the ELA will work to keep others updated on progress and resources.   

This blog is shared on the Early Childhood Connector (ECC) News to support the goal of elevating community voices. This Story of Impact blog by  was originally posted in the COVID-19 Community groupShare how COVID-19 has affected you, your community, your state, and our country by joining the community. Registered members can comment on this blog post below - please note that all comments are public. 

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About Michelle Larva, M.Sc.

If there is one thing others should know about me as an early childhood professional, it is that as a Finn, I am a strong believer in The Nordic Theory of Everything. I've witnessed the way that societies can either equitably support its families' and young children's well-being through comprehensive public systems, or leave them straining to reach "opportunities," which creates massive gaps in health, education, income, racial equity, gender equity, overall well-being, and even happiness.

My great mission is to simply advance what is best for babiesa flag I learned to sport as a Pritzker Fellow. Today, as Project Manager, I help members of the Early Learning Alliance (a community collaborative in Tarrant County TX focused on building the foundation that children ages 0-5 need to succeed in school and in life) to increase families' access to high quality childcare and other essential supports in the community. We accomplish this through collaboration, leadership, data, research, technology, family engagement, and advocacy.

What's my "Why?" – I know that I have an incredible amount of privilege; I have done nothing to deserve having been born White, in Finland, and with easy access to its public systems, etc. etc. So I strive to break down the barriers that drive inequality during the early years of a child's life. I believe we can do this by supporting universal approaches, doing away with the stigma of programs targeted at "at-risk" populations, and recognizing that each and every child is a child of potential.

My educational background includes a M.Sc. in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Family Science, as well as a B.Sc. in Human Development and Family Studies, from the University of North Texas in Denton, TX.