While the COVID-19 data for Maryland are good in comparison with many other states, more than 3,000 people have died, and the pandemic is still having a profound impact on the lives and livelihoods of Marylanders. Even as Governor Hogan’s Stage Two re-opening plan allows businesses to resume limited operations, one of the pillars of the state’s economy – child care services for working parents – is in crisis.
State-wide there are more than 8,000 child care programs licensed to care for over 213,000 children. A little under half of them have been closed since late March. The rest have been authorized by the state to care for the children of essential first-responders.
According to a survey by the non-profit Maryland Family Network, just over half of all child care programs in the state say they may be forced to permanently close if families continue keeping their children home as a result of the pandemic. Two thirds of the state’s child care service providers reported significant financial losses due to the closures and reduced attendance.
Today we're taking a look at the challenges facing child care providers and parents. Later this hour we’ll talk with the directors of two child care centers: Richard Huffman, the founder and CEO of Celebree Schools, which operates 26 locally-owned child care centers in Maryland and Delaware; and Beth Drummond Casey, the executive director of the Bolton Hill Nursery, an independent, non-profit child care center established in 1969. Tom also talks with Scott Goldman, a working Baltimore parent of three child-care-age children, and with Christina Peusch, the executive director of the Maryland State Child Care Association, a non-profit advocacy group that represents more than 4400 child care centers across the state, and which recently launched an online campaign called SaveMarylandChildCare.org. But Tom's first guest is Steve Rohde, the deputy director for Resource and Referral at Maryland Family Network, a private non-profit advocacy group that's been supporting quality child care, early education and Maryland families since 1945.
Officials with the Maryland State Department of Education's Division of Early Childhood, which regulates child care service providers, were invited to join today's discussion, but were unable to schedule a representative. However, the MSDE's Office of Communications provided this statement addressing the issues raised in today's program:
"The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is very grateful to the service of our child care providers who continue to play a critical role in the State's overall pandemic recovery efforts. To date, MSDE has disbursed $87.2 million to child care providers as part of the Essential Personnel Child Care/ Essential Personnel School Age program. At the beginning of the pandemic, 29% of the 7,858 family and center-based child care programs were operating. Today more than 63% are reopened, with an average of 40-50 programs re-opening each day. Prior to Stage 1 of the Governor's Road to Recovery, group size was limited to 10 persons.
"Now that we are in Stage 2, group capacity is expanded to 15. Family child care programs are now back to their licensed capacity, and Center-based programs ratios remain impacted for only 3 and 4 year-olds. MSDE continues to evaluate the health and safety guidance created with the Maryland Department of Health with the safety of children and staff as the priority. As we move forward, we continue to communicate and coordinate closely with the child care community, holding weekly listening sessions directly with providers, and incorporating stakeholder input into the child care recovery plan - Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Child Care." -- MSDE Office of Communications
MFN's recent report: Caring During Covid: The Impact of Pandemic on Maryland Child Care Providers
MFN's LOCATE Child Care (Online or call: 1-866-357-3239)