Child care recovery: Meeting physical and emotional needs

“Things I am feeling or going through as a provider, other providers are experiencing themselves. I’m not alone.” – Child care provider in Iowa

In early 2020, child care providers across Iowa, and the nation, faced enormous pressure. Health, economic, regulatory and relational challenges contributed to stress and trauma for providers, caregivers and children. By July, although the pandemic was far from over, some were beginning to put new procedures in place, access new resources and find stability amid chaos. Then, on August 10, 2020, a derecho impacted a wide area of Iowa, with significant disruption and damage in Linn and Benton Counties.

Multiple child care facilities sustained uninsured damages from the derecho. The storm damage, amid an already precarious situation, deeply concerned organizations that regularly support child care providers. One of these organizations, hard at work meeting the growing needs of providers in Linn and Benton Counties, is Hawkeye Area Community Action Program’s (HACAP) child care services.

In 2021, HACAP received a $35,000 grant from CDP’s Midwest Early Recovery Fund (ERF) to provide derecho recovery assistance to child care providers in Linn and Benton Counties. Rural child care facilities were of particular concern. They are often the only, or among just a few, providers of critical child care that underpins their community’s workforce, education and economy.

One home daycare owner shared this story:

“I was without power for nine days. I had children in attendance during the storm; we sheltered in the basement with a lantern for over an hour. I had children in attendance through [the immediate aftermath]….We had damage to our garage roof (used for child care business items and toy storage)…. We lost miscellaneous balls and toys that blew away, and some items were crushed…. Fallen limbs bent required fencing, and much of the fall zone safety mulch was raked away/lost with leaf and tree debris cleanup…. The children were impacted as they show anxiety even a year after when the winds come up or if they hear storm sirens.”

Using the grant from CDP, HACAP offered financial assistance and educational opportunities to providers like the one quoted above. Nine providers received child care business grants. The grants allowed programs to replace lost items and replenish drained emergency accounts used for deductibles, contested repairs and uncovered expenses, such as lost income due to temporary closures and staff wages provided during those closures. With this support, the facilities could stay open and deliver critical, quality care for parents and children in their communities.

In addition, these nine providers and others had the opportunity to attend educational sessions. They learned new strategies and ideas for preparing for future emergencies and ways to support their children, families, staff and themselves through trauma/disaster. They also learned about resources and partners that help support a community safety net. One participant wrote, “Things I am feeling or going through as a provider, other providers are experiencing themselves. I’m not alone.”

It’s powerful to be reminded that you are not alone. Not only did these providers receive that reminder for themselves, but they will also pass it on, along with everything else they learned, to the caregivers, parents and children in their spheres.

The complexity of the pandemic, combined with the significant derecho disaster, exacerbated the ongoing child care crisis across the country. As demonstrated by HACAP’s ongoing work with providers and the implementation of the ERF grant, providing layers of support is critical for holistic, equitable long-term recovery.

Photo source: Pexel