Many believe the pandemic has made it clear that we need to get to know better the people who help keep our businesses and families on the move, including low-paid and undervalued childcare workers.

“We trust and trust these people to take care of our children while we are at work,” said Sarah Catein of St. Clair Shores and a patient care technician at St. John’s Hospital in Detroit. “And we can work thanks to them. I feel they deserve to be paid more for what they do. ”

Katten and her husband have a 2-year-old son who is in a small kindergarten. During the pandemic, he remained open to helping many of his parents who were important workers.

He struggled during the latest wave of COVID-19 variants – when an outbreak of the school and even among her families – but still remained open.

If they had to close, they offered parents to reimburse their tuition or credit.

“I know a lot of kindergartens don’t do that,” said Cattaine, who feels happy to have a day care unit but knows many parents who are still trying to find the right caregivers.

“The pandemic has shaken up all aspects of people’s lives,” she said.

Some childcare services that were shut down at the start of the pandemic never opened, and those that tried faced the same challenges as other small businesses; no help.

The crisis is ongoing

Michigan State Policy League (MLPP), Children Count in Michigan and Think, kids of Michigan According to him, this is largely due to the fact that the labor force caring for the youngest children of the state aged 0-2 years, is not paid at a level that allows to recruit and retain qualified staff.

“This is a deep crisis that has become chronic,” Monique Stanton, president and CEO of MLPP, said in a recent report. “Early childhood is a crucial time – a time when a child’s brain develops faster than any other period in life – but our system does not reflect this. The care and education of infants, toddlers and their families are often unavailable, and the workers who care for these little michiganders receive very little money.

Katein agreed.

“I think they deserve to be paid more,” she said, and while she would be willing to help, her budget is as tight as the next family’s, and given that things are growing. , this should be a small increase.

Stanton said Macomb County has a significant shortfall in terms of access to child care, and although several factors have contributed to the crisis, wages are one of the biggest.

Eight out of 10 children’s centers identified wages as the main problem in hiring new employees. According to the MPP report, home visiting programs also report limited staff funding as the biggest barrier to family care.

“Low wages for young children are endemic,” Stanton said. “For example: childcare workers are among the lowest salaries in Michigan with an average salary of $ 11.13 per hour. Many are hoping for state aid to make ends meet, and almost one in five lives below the poverty line, “said Erica Taylor, co-chair of Think Babies, a co-chair of the prenatal age group up to three who is involved. 1,900 parents, supporters and organizations working to make Michigan a major state where children can be born and raised. “Low wages lead to staff turnover of up to 30%. also ensuring that those who work with them are properly prepared and paid for it. ”

Childcare providers

Joan Clark of Sterling Heights is a childcare worker who has been running a home visiting program for over 22 years.

But the pandemic and poor wages made her in it.

“It was absolutely the best job in the world,” Clark said. “It has allowed me to have such an impact on so many children and families. I have had 97 children over the years. ”

As a young mother of two who worked as a staff administrator, she herself was counting on kindergarten. However, when child number three appeared, she decided to quit her job and become a licensed child care provider.

“I left the position I held for 12 years, with a five-week vacation, a pension, a plan of 401 thousand and full benefits,” said Clark.

But the idea of ​​managing all this and the three children was a task she could not understand.

So she began the process of becoming a childcare provider, which involved applying for a license, adding liability insurance to her already outrageous homeowner’s insurance, and hiring a licensed contractor to protect her from children inside and out.

“You have to make sure there is relevant material on the playground,” Clark said. “To get a license, I had to take fingerprints and undergo a drug test and examination to prove that we are capable of caring for children.”

She also completed a resuscitation course and, as a former HR administrator, created a guide with recommendations for her parents.

She could not be more enthusiastic about her work.

Back in high school she aspired to be a teacher, but at the time there was a surplus, so she turned away from the passion of working with children. As a childcare provider, she found her niche and she and her children prospered.

“I kept a diary for all my children so that their parents would know what they were doing all day,” Clark said.

It also allowed them to share the stages of early childhood. She had a license for six children, but including her three. At one point she and her husband were breadwinners who allowed them to care for 12 children.

So far her children are still talking about how much fun they had with Mrs. Clark. One young man, who grew up under her care, recalls how she satisfied his passion for dinosaurs and how the two of them spent hours in her yard digging bones. He had no idea he had found the chicken bones and ribs she had buried every day before he came hunting.

All of this was provided to parents for $ 180 a week.

Then came the pandemic and the rules changed forever.

She was committed to detail and never went against the system, but in some cases she felt the need to put her children first. When the baby cried, she comforted them. Her children also never wore masks during her care. Their parents did, and when the numbers increased, she insisted that they not enter her house but throw the children at the door. If she had been forced to wear a mask by a one-year-old child, she said she would have given up her rights immediately.

She also developed a response plan for COVID-19, which was one of the requirements for educators. As a former HR administrator, what she created became a model for others. She also came up with a work schedule that included disinfection and cleaning required by the state, as well as her own standard. So now instead of 10 hours a day she spent 12 and 13 hours a day in addition to the hour she needed to prepare lunches and dinners the next day, another benefit for her parents.

A former childcare provider, Joanne Clark, is dealing with two children she has been in her care. Photo courtesy of Clark

What has increased with the clock is the cost.

“I paid $ 30 for two cans of Lysol (in the midst of a pandemic), and when the parents had to keep the child at home, I gave them credit or compensation,” Clark said. “I had parents needed for care, and I felt the need to do my part to keep them working.”

At one point she was able to get a grant, but eventually had to pay part of it to her parents, who were needed workers.

Helped by parents who left materials when they could, and groups like Great Start to Quality who left personal protective equipment when they were hard to find.

“Thank God I was paid in my arms,” ​​she said. Otherwise it would not have lasted that long.

Expenditures and subsidies

Clark’s parents were paid less than $ 200 a week, but that’s a rare thing in today’s industry.

According to an analysis by the Institute for Economic Policy in October 2020, child care in Michigan is expensive. The average cost of babysitting in the state is $ 10,861, which is $ 905 per month. Caring for a 4-year-old child costs $ 8,890, or $ 741 each month.

Child care is not available to typical Michigan families.

  • Babysitting for one child will account for 19% of the average family income in Michigan.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), child care is available if it costs no more than 7% of family income. By this standard, only 9.3% of Michigan families can afford babysitting.

An even greater burden is faced by families with two children.

  • Caring for two children – an infant and a 4-year-old – costs $ 19,751. That’s 48.7% more than the average rent in Michigan.
  • An ordinary family in Michigan would have to spend 34.6% of their income on caring for infants and 4-year-olds.

HHS accessibility standard: childcare should cost no more than 7% of family income.

  • For the average family with children, the annual cost of child care is 19% of the average income ($ 57,054).
  • For a worker with a minimum wage, the annual cost of child care is 54% of the average income ($ 20,072)
  • For a regular childcare worker, the annual cost of childcare is 49% of average income ($ 22,150)

The good news is that a record $ 1.4 billion state budget for childcare could really turn the industry around.

“Grants will be provided to help child care providers keep the door open,” Stanton said.

There will also be an increase in the right to income childcare subsidies.

“It helps increase affordability for low-income families,” Stanton said.

Child care providers will also receive grants to help boost their annual earnings, which will help many small kindergartens and family visiting programs. Parents interested in determining if they are eligible for a childcare grant may visit GreatStarttoQuality.org or michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140-63533_63534_72609—,00.html

Finally, $ 130 million will be available to startups – it may become more attractive once people start appreciating them for who they are.

“I never sat on the kids, I took care of them,” Clark said, adding on behalf of educators she knows who are still trying to make a living. “We are nannies. We are educators who have been entrusted with the greatest treasure in your life. “

Oakland Press reporter Mark Cavitt contributed to this report.

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