In our advisory role, BBF is committed to presenting the most up-to-date data on the status of children, families, and the early childhood system. Just as important, is BBF’s ability to capture and produce the perspectives from families as well as early childhood professionals across all sectors quickly and efficiently. This information gathering efforts allow the Legislature, Agency Leadership and early childhood stakeholders to see a point-in-time snapshot of perspectives on key initiatives, outcomes for children and families, challenges, strengths, and solutions to move forward.
Last week when legislators sought information on how children and families in Vermont have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, they reached out to Building Bright Futures and other early childhood partners to testify to the House Committee on Human Services. Upon receiving the request to testify, BBF piloted a new way of quickly and efficiently gathering information for legislative testimony. We immediately sent out a feedback request to all layers of the BBF network asking for responses to the following 3 questions within 24 hours:
- What is the pandemic’s impact on children and families? Share your experiences, observations and/or data.
- What have been the challenges/barriers and opportunities in Vermont’s COVID-19 response to child care?
- What would be helpful going forward as we continue to navigate and recover from the pandemic?
Within 24 hours, we were thrilled to capture 69 responses representing all 12 regions of the state across 32 sectors including parents, health care, mental health care, business, early childhood education (serving children 0-8), non-profit, food security, and state government. Our data and policy team analyzed the responses and identified 7 key themes. 60% of respondents reported they were parents of a child under 9 (categories were not mutually exclusive). It is important to note that responses reflect a large range of viewpoints but may not reflect all Vermont families and professionals across the early childhood system as we did not conduct a systematic survey.
This information was presented to the committee on January 28th (postponed from the 21st) as well as an overview of BBF and highlights of the 2020 How Are Vermont’s Young Children and Families Report. What we heard from families and stakeholders were honest and exposed the challenges facing children, families and those providing services throughout this public health crisis. Responses included,
“As a family, despite being in a comfortable situation prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (two parent household, fully employed, safely housed, stable-income, good family/friend support), the pandemic has all but ravaged our familial sense of security and safety. We no longer feel as though we are thriving and raising our young daughter, but rather just barely surviving.” – Parent/Caregiver Response
Family Economic Impact
“Since COVID, we have had extremely limited childcare availability because our daycare is running significantly reduced hours, 45 hours of care pre-pandemic to 28 hours currently, despite a tuition hike in 2021. With such limited childcare availability, we have been forced to hire private teachers at an additional cost to the family, dip into our limited savings while we endure pay cuts and lost wages caused by reduced work hours to take care of our child.” – Healthcare Professional
“This pandemic has had a negative impact on the social/emotional development of all the children across the board to varying degrees. This is in part due to parental stress (number one stressor seems to be economic uncertainty) leading to a higher rate of negative interactions with their children. It also seems in part due to the lack of socialization outside of childcare (such as at community playgrounds, religious functions, and other social gatherings in which to practice social skills).” -Early Childhood Professional
Organization Financial Stability
“CCFAP currently reimburses based on attendance. Children’s certificates can be impacted if they are not attending frequently. However, having to quarantine or close due to staffing is beyond our control. This impacts our bottom line greatly as we rely solely on the CCFAP for tuition and do not charge families.” – Parent Child Center Representative
Building Bright Futures Testimony to House Committee on Human Services 1.28.21 – Written Testimony