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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 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, offer support to providers, prevent permanent child care closures, and 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 local ECE needs. 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. The Task Force and the Response Network are coordinating and connecting on a daily basis to ensure clear communication and alignment.
Locally, the community is taking the following targeted steps toward both crisis-management and preparing for what may lie ahead:
The current crisis has compelled the community to expedite solution-finding for tracking the availability of child care. Currently, two approaches are being prepared to develop a better picture of child care openings and availability. The first approach prioritizes immediate needs by utilizing existing child care availability for essential workers. Tarrant County is building a simple database to track and share open child care providers along with other basic measures to match workers in need with available child care seats. The second approach is more long-term and will work to identify existing child care locations with which to contract, and open critical industry child care centers utilizing the existing, local child care workforce to recognize childcare as one of these critical industries.These are challenging tasks, but the community is fortunate to have built strong and trusting partnerships across the community (such as the Early Learning Alliance); collaboration and solidarity can make these plans a reality.
Additionally, through the coordination of Texans Care for Children, communities across Texas signed 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:
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 blog by Michelle Larva, M.Sc. was originally posted in the community.
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