CA Policymakers Can Mitigate the Crisis with Investments in Early Education, Food Security, and Financial Assistance for Families
OAKLAND, Calif. – A new poll released by The Education Trust—West, The Children’s Partnership, The District Innovation and Leadership for Early Education Initiative, Early Edge California, and Child360 reveals more than half of California parents of children ages 0 to 5 (53%) feel uneasy about personal finances and more than a third (39%) are not confident about being able to pay for basic expenses like food, housing, and healthcare. Parents are even skipping and reducing meals to compensate for a lack of steady income, fears of future financial instability, and food availability.
“A child’s early years can set them up for a lifetime of success or start them off behind the starting line,” said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West. “Educational opportunity gaps start before kids even enter kindergarten and can follow them all the way through college. The data is clear: the children whose families are being hit hardest by this crisis are the same children we have long failed to support adequately. We need to move urgently to make sure that children—especially children of color, children from lower-income families, and dual language learners—stay safe, healthy, fed, and housed right now and that they have equitable access to first-rate educational opportunities from early childhood through higher education.”
Key Poll Findings:
- California’s parents of children ages 0 to 5 are experiencing intense financial insecurity during this time.
- As a result of the crisis, parents are skipping or reducing their family’s meals. 24% of Black, 43% of Latinx, 30% of White, 39% of non-English speakers, and 36% overall of parents are reducing or skipping their meals.
- For many California families, the coronavirus crisis has been incredibly disruptive and put parents’ and young children’s well-being at risk. 57% of Black, 76% of Latinx, 72% of White, and 73% overall of families are worried about their family’s mental health.
- 23% of parents worry about the impact of substance abuse and domestic violence on their family as a result of the coronavirus crisis (31% of non-English speakers and 33% parents of children with disabilities).
- The coronavirus crisis has significantly changed parents’ child care arrangements and other parenting supports. 46% of families with a household income lower than $50,000/year potentially will be unable to afford their existing care if their financial situation worsens.
- The current crisis has introduced a lot of uncertainty about child care for many parents of young children in California, including among essential workers. Only 7% of parents say their daycare is open and their child is attending.
- Government support can help struggling parents in California.
- Some parents have been in a position to make the most out of this time with their child, though more time at home has come at the expense of more screen time.
“COVID-19 is threatening the physical, mental, and emotional health of California families,” said Mayra E. Alvarez, President of The Children’s Partnership. “How children emerge from this crisis will be affected by whether parents or caregivers have to worry about basic expenses like health care, food, and housing. Our collective well-being depends on our work with policymakers to center the needs of children and families in order to address the continued inequities that are both highlighted and amplified by the pandemic.”
“Parents in California are hurting right now and we need programs to provide for their well-being and financial security,” said Patricia Lozano, Executive Director of Early Edge California. “For example, we should continue to provide emergency childcare for essential workers and must also protect Early Learning budgets from any cuts so that childcare providers that have been forced to close can resume offering care as soon as Californians begin returning to work.”
“The high levels of stress parents are experiencing over their child’s well-being is astounding; and we know that’s because they want to do everything in their power to help their child succeed and lead a happy and full life,” said William Sperling, CEO of Child360. “As a parent myself, I have to remember that sharing my own struggles and true emotions helps build resilience in my children. Believe you are doing the best you can, and if you need help, your local resource and referral agency is available to you. Also, take care of yourself. Child360 is here as a resource and is now providing a free online course on self-care. The fact that we, as parents, are concerned means we are aware and willing to do what it takes to make sure our children get what they need, feel loved in the process, and feel prepared for life.”
Key Areas of Need Moving Forward:
Policymakers must do more to address ongoing inequities experienced by families across the state that are being amplified by the pandemic.
- Increase financial resources for parents of young children beyond what they already receive through the state and federal stimulus payments, as well as to early childhood education programs to prevent closures as a result of losing tuition.
- Provide more meals for families struggling with food insecurity. In alignment with Governor Newsom’s launch of the Pandemic-Electronic Benefits Transfer Program (P-EBT), ensure a swift rollout and communication of the P-EBT. Target resources towards expanding meal access for all families struggling with food insecurity, including Latinx parents and families in Los Angeles and those whose children have been enrolled in Early Intervention and Head Start programs.
- Increase access to health, wellness, and support professionals through telehealth programs, including Early Intervention and home visitation services, as a third of parents (30%) have missed health appointments for their child due to coronavirus.
- Ensure support is widely available for families experiencing crises related to addiction and abuse, which may arise or be exacerbated as a result of the state’s shelter-in-place order.
- Continue to invest in the equitable expansion of high-quality, affordable child care, and preschool for low-income families of color.
- Continue to invest in the Cradle-to-Career Data System to capture the longer-term impacts of child care and preschool closures, inform equity-oriented change, and shift policies and practices to better serve children of color, children from lower-income communities, and dual language learners from the early years through college.
- Increase web-based supports and resources. Many community-based organizations, libraries, museums, child care providers, and other entities are providing virtual tools and resources that families are using. More tools (and outreach to advertise them) like free online resources, developmental programming such as virtual story time, resources that can help with food, housing, employment, health, and other emergency needs, and connections to other parents are all widely viewed as helpful among parents.
The online poll among 600 parents of children under the age of six in California was conducted by Global Strategy Group from April 18th to 22nd, 2020 and released in coordination with The Education Trust–New York’s poll of New York parents.
About The Education Trust—West
The Education Trust—West works for educational justice and the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-K through college, in the state of California. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.
About The Children’s Partnership
The Children’s Partnership is a California–based children’s advocacy organization committed to improving the lives of marginalized children where they live, learn, and play with breakthrough solutions at the intersection of research, policy, and community engagement.
About The District Innovation and Leadership for Early Education Initiative
The District Innovation and Leadership for Early Education (DIAL EE) Initiative utilizes content experts, data, research, and a continuous improvement process to assist Districts with aligning early education and K12 systems to improve outcomes for all children preschool through 5th grade.
About Early Edge California
Early Edge California is a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization dedicated to improving access to high-quality Early Learning experiences for all California children.
About Child 360
Child360 is a leading nonprofit working toward a future where every child has the educational opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. We support the development of the whole child, beginning at birth, through early childhood education program support, professional development, advocacy, research, and community and family engagement.