Childcare Deserts: A Caregiver’s Fight for Business Survival

Childcare and early childhood education programs are an important part of children’s well-being and essential for many working families.

About two-thirds of children under the age of six in the US have both parents in the labor force, according to the latest data from the Kids Count Data Center.

The people who care for children are one of the main contributors to quality early education, but they rarely feel they are.

Sandra Kumplido’s day starts at 8 am and ends well after 7 pm. She works seven days a week, taking care of eight children, all under the age of three.

“They are learning their alphabets, they are learning their language,” Camplido said. “I teach [them] English and Spanish. “[They] especially [like lessons involving] dancing. My God, they love to dance, especially to Mexican songs. They really like cha-cha.”

She has been working for almost 30 years, but still cannot afford an adequate salary.

“It’s good that I have savings,” said Camplido. “It’s not big money, but I have money. But, for example, I want us, educators, to be paid more. [At least] minimum wage so that I don’t have to spend my savings on keeping assistants or buying basic necessities.”

Cumplido only serves low-income families who receive government-subsidized treatment. This means that it relies on subsidies to finance its business. Typically, she says, she gets $257 a week for a child under the age of two.

“You divide $257 by five days and you get $51.40 a day,” Camplido said. “Now you divide that by 10 hours and you get $5.14 an hour. That’s how much they pay me for a child. And this is for a baby, less for kids, fewer preschoolers.

Camplido says he keeps less than half of the money he earns. Most of it goes to rent, bills, groceries, diapers and day care. Her struggles are typical of childcare workers, who have long been among the lowest paid workers in the country.

According to the UC Berkeley Childcare Employment Research Center, childcare workers earn between $16,200 and $30,000 a year. The salaries of professionals in this business are lower than those of many housekeepers, fast food workers and retail workers.

Employment benefits are also often scarcer for childcare providers like Kumplido, who run small businesses from their homes. According to the Child Care Employment Research Center, less than half of child care providers have leave as part of their family agreements. Only about a fifth have retirement savings and at least 16% do not have health insurance, compared to 8% of the total US population who do not.

“I’m still here because I love my job,” Camplido said. “And, as I said, this is my life, this is what I know, this is everything. And I struggle, but I’m still here for my community and for my parents. I’m still here and I’m very passionate about it.”

But many childcare professionals believe the numbers just don’t add up. Lori Bourne closed the child care program she ran at her home last year.

“When the pandemic first started, home caregivers and nannies weren’t even approached,” Bourne said. “When it came to shutting down everything, they turned to schools, preschools, they were given resources, they were given information, but preschool and home care providers weren’t.”

For 22 years, Bourne has cared for, carefully guided and educated the little ones in her care.

“We provided them with food, their education, their enrichment of the environment, their enrichment of science, just their daily lives and prepared them for preschool education,” Bourne said.

When her landlord failed to renew her lease, Bourne was forced to close her program and look for a new location.

“When you’re in the care of a family’s children, you rely on whatever money you can put aside,” Bourne said. “I didn’t have any program to get funding to be able to move, you know, [or] stay a few months until enrollment recovers.”

Her center was one of approximately 16,000 closures that occurred nationwide between December 2019 and March 2021, according to a study by Child Care Aware of America. In San Diego alone, in the first six months of 2021, 37 centers closed and only 20 reopened. up. The closure has hit the most vulnerable areas hardest.

Lack of support and funding is a common complaint among those in business.

“One of the obstacles is that service providers are not getting timely notice to get the resources they need to provide quality child care,” said Kathleen Tostado-Kenshur, owner of Encinitas child care business.

Tostado-Kenshur has been a supplier for over 45 years. She sits on the board of several child care worker groups and advocates for those who work in the field.

“If I were a politician, I would definitely take into account inflation, be more relevant, you know, [with the amount given to providers in subsidies,]said Tostado-Kenshur. “Look at the bigger picture of what needs to be done to keep these people in business.”

Tostado-Kenshur talks about subsidized care, but there are many families who not only are not eligible for benefits, but cannot afford childcare.

NBC 7 contacted the county to find out how they are supporting the childcare industry in San Diego and was introduced to Deseri Martinez, who serves on the local childcare and development planning board.

“The board is tasked with putting together a plan, mostly recommendations, for the District Review Board and the District Superintendent of Schools to help them determine how best to move forward and support childcare needs,” Martinez said.

Most recently, she said, the county supervisory board approved a workforce prioritization plan. The plan includes a proposal to reform rates for childcare workers, which includes support for professional wages and benefits that are consistent with the experience and commitment of the caregiver.

NBC 7 also contacted the state of California to see if they were aware of the concerns raised by childcare workers to us, and they responded with an April newscast. The release announced that an additional $289 million will be awarded to the child care industry, of which 27,000 caregivers will receive up to $10,000 in additional assistance.

Meanwhile, guardians like Kumplido cling to their passion.

“They need to see what we’re doing as childcare providers,” Cumplido said. “They will see, they will be amazed at how hard we work.”

She hopes that support and recognition will come sooner rather than later.

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