Since 2018, Early Edge California has regularly hosted meetings with our Early Learning Teacher Advisory Groups in order to hear feedback on policy proposals and recommendations from its members who are Early Learning teachers from childcare centers, family childcare homes, Head Start programs, and Transitional Kindergarten across the state. Given the success and huge value we have seen from those groups, we have expanded the model to recruit and host California parents to provide them with information on current policy proposals and solicit their feedback.
Through our recruitment efforts this summer, which included outreach to partner organizations and social media promotion, we received responses from more than 50 parents. In late August, we held the first meetings of our Early Learning Parent Advisory Groups, offered in both English and Spanish, attended by a total of 22 parents.
Below we share some of the feedback that we received from parents during these meetings. Participants candidly discussed the challenges that they and their families have faced during COVID-19. They also shared about their childcare preferences which were reflected in an interactive sticky note activity the group did together during the Zoom meetings. Early Edge California will use this information in developing our policy proposals and recommendations in the upcoming months. Thank you to all the parents who brought their voices to these discussions and shared their current experiences with us regarding Early Learning.
Key Takeaways - COVID-19
Parents were left with limited or no childcare support when programs closed.
- “When I’m at work, my older boys help me put [my daughter] on her Zoom classes, but she’s only 5 and they have to do their schoolwork, too, so it’s been extremely challenging.”
Lack of childcare has affected parents’ job and financial decisions.
- “My plan was to go back to school and get a part-time job so we could get a bigger apartment, but now my husband works and I have to help my girls with school.”
- “I was supposed to go back to work…unfortunately now that I won’t be able to work, it has impacted our financial goal.”
- “I’m a single mother…I had to decide to stay at home to help my son with his classes and reduce my hours in order to do that for him.”
- “I can’t financially provide for my children as a result of no childcare. I am a student and it is challenging juggling everything with no support for childcare.”
Parents struggle to balance maintaining safety with meeting children’s social and developmental needs.
“Me gustaría ponerle para atrás en su escuelita pero también tengo reservación…porque no sabe si otras familias están tomando las guías para proteger a su familia.” (“I would like to send my child back to school but I’m worried. I don’t know if other families are being cautious.”)
Parents are worried about the social-emotional impact of distance learning and ongoing shelter-in-place on their children.
- “The kids aren’t getting that social interaction and I see the difference with them.”
- “Our school district has been doing the best that they can with distance learning, but definitely I feel like the social-emotional part has been really missing.”
- “[Los niños] tienen que volver a socializarse porque eso también les afecta emocionalmente.” (“[The children] have to start socializing again because that also affects them emotionally.”)
Screen time is a major concern.
- “I’m actually grateful that the iPad exists because it helps me get through my meetings and get things done…This is definitely something that I know there is going to be consequences later, but I don’t have a choice; I need to work.”
- “The iPad, being in front of a screen, not being able to go to the park, not being able to interact – I see the outbursts and the behavioral issues that are creeping up and that worries me so much.”
Key Takeaways - Childcare Preferences
Parents appreciate well-educated, professional teachers and staff.
- “[Me gusta] la manera en que enseñan a los niños. Esto es muy importante.” (“[I like] the way they teach the children. It’s very important.”)
Parents prefer programs that offer diversity and language immersion opportunities.
- “[What’s important to me is] diversity, made up of kids in the local community.”
- “If cost wasn’t an issue, [my ideal] would be a dual-language school.”
- “Me encanta que el lugar sea bilingüe. Que mi niño aprenda los dos idiomas.” (“I love that the school is bilingual; that my child is learning both languages.”)
Parents value social-emotional development and outdoor classrooms in Early Learning.
- “[My ideal program is] where there is a lot of playing and interaction involved; not so much book-based.”
- “Ideal childcare for my 2-year-old would be the local community college child study center. There is a huge emphasis on social-emotional.”
- “I would love an outdoor classroom, that’s, like, my dream.”
- “[What is important for me is] outdoor classrooms and centers.”
- “[Que es importante para mi es] que hagan actividades al aire libre.” (“[What is important for me is] a program that does outdoor activities.”)
Parents value programs that offer opportunities for parent involvement and parent education.
- “[Yo valgo] el apoyo que brindan a nosotros como padres. Como ser mejor mamá.” (“[I value] the support they provide to us as parents. How to be a better Mom.”)
- “I like [my childcare center] because they engage the parents with their activities.”
Parents need programs with flexible hours.
- “[For my ideal program] I think flexibility with hours. We’re all working parents.”
- “Hours of operation and location is KEY.”
Confidence in cleaning and safety protocols is important.
- “Ellos están preparados para cualquier emergencia. Eso me gusta mucho.” (“They’re prepared for any emergency. I like that a lot.”)
- “[Que es importante para mi es] LIMPIEZA.” (“[What is important to me is] CLEANING.”)