Kidango Advocacy Goes Virtual - A Conversation with Congressman Eric Swalwell
By Maeva Renaud, Community Organizer
Coronavirus Pandemic has hit our communities by storm, especially the child care sector. As an organization that serves over 4400 families, the needs and concerns are astonishing. That is why on July 31st, parents, teachers, and advocates joined online for a conversation with the U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell to discuss child care in the midst of the COVID-19. The Virtual Roundtable on Child Care was organized by Kidango and Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, providing an opportunity for the Congressman to learn from parents and providers and share what is happening in Washington D.C. on federal child care funding.
Parents like Marfelia from Dublin, shared her challenges stating, ”During the time the center was closed due to the COVID-19, it was a challenge for me to keep my daughter focused on a simple task or zoom class. There were days that I was unable to connect her because I had my son’s classes at the same time. This has been one of the most difficult times in life for my family. My husband lost his job and we were in difficult days when we had to decide about buying food or paying the rent”. When our centers closed due to the virus, Kidango provided Grab and Go meals at some of our centers to address the need of food insecurity. Our CEO, Scot Moore stated, “It’s been an intense time…the needs of our families are just extraordinary and I think that’s the experience the whole country has.”
Another parent, Veronica from Union City shared her concerns about her son’s development stating, “I know that Kidango has few centers open… and they have very few kids-my son couldn’t get in because I’m not working but I want, I’m willing to go to work to start my career. So I [wish] that Kidango had the opportunity to have more centers open so they can have more space for more kids.” Accessing child care was already a challenge for parents and families. Now with COVID-19, it has made a really bad situation worse.
According to Asia whose child is enrolled in our infant and toddler care program in San Leandro, “ The cost of child care has been my biggest struggle to maintain consistent employment. But since Kidango, that has all changed for me. As we entered the scary and uncertain time of this pandemic, my employment was compromised once again because my children could not attend day care. A few months into the pandemic, I found out that Kidango would be opening to essential workers and I was so relieved because I could go back to work. At that time bills and rent were becoming very overwhelming. Although I was very thankful, I was also met with fear every time I took my daughters to school; fear that our teachers and our staff would not have the supplies needed to care for my children or for themselves.”
The pandemic has created more obstacles and barriers for many families and providers. For Kidango, “… what we’re struggling with the most right now is the lack of access to testing and then the speed by which we get the results. For child care, when we have to shut down it’s not just the three teachers who have to stay at home in quarantine, it’s all those parents too. So we are talking about 15 jobs being put on hold instead of just the three teachers,” said Scott Moore.
Advocates shared the need to prioritize increased funding in the stimulus package to support children, families, and child care providers. The emphasis was on child care’s contribution to economic growth, especially in these unprecedented times. Executive Director of Tandem, Partners in Early Learning Savitha Moorthy stated, “Child care is hugely beneficial to our society; when we have quality childcare, we have positive school outcomes, we have a workforce that’s ready, a stable society, so child care is something that all Americans have a stake in, not just the Americans that have young children”.
The Congressman was very emphatic and engaging, speaking to parents and asking questions to better understand the need. As a parent himself, he stated, “I have an even better idea of what childcare means to the people I represent. “ He made a commitment to continue to fight for grant funding and a safe environment for our kids.
You can watch the full recording of the Virtual Roundtable on Child Care with Congressman Eric Swalwell on Youtube.
We encourage you to keep the pressure on Congress as they finalize the next stimulus package. Help us urge Congress to include $50 billion to protect child care so children have a safe place to learn and grow, and parents are able to work during these difficult times.