This summer I’ve had the opportunity to get a good look at the challenges facing many families when it comes to childcare, as part of my summer internship with NC Child’s Community Engagement Team. It has been eye-opening to hear the first-hand perspectives of parents and early childhood education teachers through my work on the Care and Learning (CandL) Initiative:
“I was working at the beginning of the year, trying to get childcare. I went to try to get a voucher and got put on waitlist. But then I lost my job because I still hadn’t found childcare…but they require you to have a job to get childcare. So it’s like, how am I supposed to get a job when I lost mine due to not having childcare?” – Participant in CandL listening session
This parent’s experience is unfortunately all too common. This is why the voices of parents and teachers are so needed in efforts to reimagine an early childhood education system that truly meets the needs of those it serves.
Responding to the Need
Childcare in North Carolina has long been a struggle for many families, but the COVID-19 pandemic exposed just how fragile the system really is. The number of available spaces in NC child care centers compared to the number of children in need of care is totally inadequate, which can cause wait lists for admissions to be months or even years long. In addition, the actual cost of safe & quality care is far beyond what most families can afford to pay.
The CandL initiative is a collaboration between several North Carolina organizations, created in response to these problems. CandL’s goal is to put quality, affordable childcare within reach for all of North Carolina’s families, whatever their income or background. CandL also seeks to ensure that early education teachers are paid fair wages, and childcare providers earn enough to be sustainable in every community. North Carolina has many very experienced experts when it comes to early education and care. The experts at the forefront of CandL’s work are the families and teachers themselves.
Listening to Parents & Teachers Across the State
CandL has partnered with local organizations in 24 counties across the state to host listening sessions where childcare providers, teachers, and parents can voice their concerns and share what they want the early care and learning system to look like. Once all of the listening sessions data is collected, it will be analyzed and compacted into an actionable list of items that the CandL stakeholders will then advocate for in the state legislature and beyond.
CandL kicked off the listening sessions with four pilot sessions conducted in February 2022, held in Craven, Durham, and Mecklenburg counties. CandL partnered with Charlotte Black Child Development Institute, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, Equity Before Birth, and Peletah Ministries to run these pilot listening sessions. All of these organizations’ missions align with accessibility and equity in early childhood education.
A Space to be Heard
The listening session participants were extremely happy to have a space to voice their thoughts, experiences, and concerns regarding early childhood education. They also shared many of their struggles with getting the care their children need.
CandL is building on the work and learnings of many early childhood initiatives that have come before in North Carolina. The initiative is truly giving the microphone to those who are directly involved in early childcare. It’s amplifying the voices of teachers, parents, and childcare providers, which often go unheard. Shining the spotlight on the issues that really matter and bringing them to the desks of those in charge is no easy feat, but it is so needed to build the future our kids need and deserve.
Want to learn more or take part in upcoming CandL listening sessions? Contact Shanda Sumpter, Early Childhood Education Project Director at Shanda@ncchild.org.