Families struggle with childcare during COVID-19

Parents struggle to find affordable childcare while providing for their family, especially in the time of a pandemic. In some families, both spouses are required to work, and those families face pressure to provide for their families and children.

"If I didn't have my mom, I would have to use some kind of after school care which is outrageously priced," said Desiree Malone, a married mother of four.

Alondra Mitchell is able to work during the pandemic, "but if not for her, [Alondra's Mom] it would be difficult because my two kids would have to be with me on my food truck."

The United Ways of Texas website says the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) program was created in 2009 in New Jersey. The program is for families who are working but cannot "afford the basic necessities of housing, food, childcare, health care, and transportation." Families in need of ALICE have increased when COVID-19 hit the US borders in January.

The virus affected childcare centers, as many closed their doors due to the pandemic. The Texas Workforce Commission's website shows the number of children served compared to the number of childcare providers available between January 2020, when Coronavirus hit the US, until March 2020. The number of children served increased by 255 from January to March, when parents were required to work more to provide for their family amid the pandemic. While the number of providers only increased by 6, within the same period.

"We closed as a safety precaution in March and did not return until June, during this time our teachers had to be temporarily laid off," said Alicia Walker, director at the Denton City County Day School.

Alondra's youngest is enrolled in Denton City County Day School, but during the closure of DCCDS, "My mom watched them for me," said Mitchell.

While other childcare centers have raised their prices, DCCDS has not had to raise their prices because of programs that are helping families afford childcare.

"We have not had to raise ours [childcare costs] yet, because of programs like childcare services that subsidize childcare, we have been able to still get funding for those students that were being subsidized before, so in this program they get a monthly fee that they pay to the school and this program pays the rest of it, through Workforce Solutions," said Director Walker.

Texas Health and Human Services incorporated protocols at the childcare centers including caregiver COVID-19 training, screenings, pick-up and drop-off plans, sanitizing toys daily, and stricter standards involving changing and when clothes get contaminated.

"Since COVID-19, we have significantly less enrollment, we are full at 84 and we currently have an enrollment of less than half. It [COVID-19] has also led to the loss of teachers because we employ many college students, and they are now back home. We have lost a total of about eight staff members," said Director Walker.

When school districts closed as a precaution at the end of last school year and the beginning of this school year, parents were forced to stay home, requiring them to help their children with school while working themselves, either from home or finding someone who could watch them while they went to work.

"Trying to work to work an 8-hour day and help 'teach' your children is terrible! I had expectations to meet, they had expectations to meet, and I felt like if I didn't help them I was letting them down, but if I didn't work I was letting my boss down. So, it ended up with me working from 4am to 8am then helping them, and resuming my work from 3pm to 8pm, sometimes later to get everything done," said Malone.

According to the United Way Denton website, "62% of jobs in TX pay at or below $20/hr., 35% of single male headed households are at or below the ALICE threshold, 57% of single female headed households are at or below the ALICE threshold, and 12% of married households are at or below the ALICE threshold. Finally, the cost of childcare for one infant and one preschooler in Denton County costs around $1,426, according to the household survival budget on their website."

The upcoming election in November involves many issues, including childcare.

Biden, per his campaign website, wants to "make childcare more affordable and accessible for working families."

President Trump has allocated $5.3 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant for 2020.