Early Childhood

WASHINGTON, DC — DC’s early childhood owners and operators are saying they are worried about their businesses surviving in a sector stretched beyond its limits. A new survey, taken nine months after pandemic health and safety restrictions closures led to sharp enrollment drops with only limited government relief, reveals a sector teetering on the brink of collapse. 

Antes de que la pandemia de COVID-19 afectara al Distrito, los programas de cuidado infantil o aprendizaje temprano ya se encontraban bajo presión. No había suficientes vacantes para todos los bebés y niños pequeños que lo necesitaban y, para muchas familias del Distrito, no siempre eran accesibles o asequibles. Ahora, tras nueve meses de restricciones relativas a la salud y la seguridad, cierres, subsidios gubernamentales limitados y un drástico descenso de las inscripciones, los docentes de educación temprana que se han dedicado a cuidar de nuestros ciudadanos más jóvenes se están preguntando si sus negocios sobrevivirán. 

The inaugural year of Under 3 DC is one I will never forget! I started 2020 excited about my plan to move to the District and lead DC Action for Children’s signature campaign to fund and implement the Birth-to-Three for All DC law. Instead, I began my work remotely from out-of-state during a public health crisis, building a hard-charging, dedicated team and charging ahead at what felt like 100 miles per hour to protect and preserve essential health and education services for families with young children. 

DC Action for Children and DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA) recently merged to form an even stronger, independent voice for children and youth. We provide data analysis, policy solutions, and collective advocacy on critical issues facing our young people. We envision a District of Columbia where all kids, regardless of their race, family’s income, or zip code, have the opportunity to reach their full potential. 

We are also the home of DC Kids Count, a data resource that tracks key indicators of child and youth well-being; Under 3 DC, a city-wide coalition advocating for families with infants and toddlers; and now home to the newly formalized DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, which is broad and diverse serving thousands of students across the District.

On Tuesday, the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) announced that, beginning November 1, the agency will change the way it pays child care providers that participate in the District’s child care subsidy program. This change would revert from COVID-19 payments to the pre-pandemic payment model, one not designed to account for the unique costs and obstacles the pandemic presents.

Today, Mayor Bowser’s administration announced that it is changing how it will make child care subsidy payments to licensed providers serving low-income District families, beginning November 1. This news comes one day after the administration announced the launch of its 5 million dollar child care relief fund to help all licensed child care programs stay in business.

COVID-19 has brought with it a storm of uncertainty and instability for the District’s child care providers, many of whom already struggled to make ends meet prior to the public health emergency.  In this exceptionally challenging time, one of the few sources of stability has been the child care subsidy program. The program supports nearly half of the District’s child care programs to some degree, all of whom serve families facing significant barriers to opportunity because of racism or economic marginalization. Throughout the pandemic, the Office of the State Superintendent - which oversees the child care subsidy program - has continued paying participants set rates meant to mirror their usual payments. These continued payments have played an important role in trying to stabilize the child care sector over the past months as costs to care for infants and toddlers within important, but stringent, CDC and DC Health and safety guidelines have, in some cases, doubled or tripled.

Yesterday, at Mayor Muriel Bowser's National Maternal and Infant Health Summit, DC Action for Children moderated a panel featuring four amazing young parents.

As part of the District’s coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery efforts, the DC Child Care Provider Relief Fund will provide $5 million in emergency operational funding to local child care facilities. Relief funds will be granted to all licensed District child care providers to ensure a supply of child care for families during the public health emergency and recovery period. This effort is being led by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF) is partnering to handle intake and disperse program funds.

On August 26th, we hosted a Virtual Town Hall to discuss the District's coordination of care across the age continuum in the midst of a virtual learning environment.  More than 100 attendees participated, making it clear this is of critical importance for families and the programs that serve them.