Emergency federal childcare funds expired on Sept. 30, raising long-term concerns for the Texas Woman’s University’s student parents and child development program.
“It’s going to have a tremendous impact on a lot of different sectors because child care is woefully underfunded,” Dr. Brigitte Vittrup, department chair of human development, family studies and counseling, said. “Some of our […] child development students go into working in early childcare. Some of them might work as childcare teachers. Some of them might work as administrators of child care centers, but with the funding running out, all of these centers that have been receiving the support may not be able to continue to operate because they don’t have the funds to cover the overhead.”
The emergency funding was issued during the COVID-19 pandemic through the American Rescue Plan Act, where $39 billion was allocated to help stabilize the child care industry. According to the Century Foundation, this motion was the “largest investment in child care in American history.” Now, however, these funds have run out, and CBS News reported that nearly 70,000 child care centers may have to close as a result.
In order for these institutions to remain open, Vittrup said that they will need to either raise tuition, cut staff, or lower the salaries of their workers – all of which will adversely impact families, teachers and those seeking jobs in the field.
“One of the estimates for the state of Texas is that it could impact 300,000 children that might no longer have access to care,” Vittrup said. “There’s several places in the state that they almost call child care deserts, where there’s just not enough access based on the people that need the care. And so if a lot of centers close down, or if the ones that are left become too expensive […] you’re seeing families that are having to either cut their hours or stop working because it’s becoming too expensive, almost to where they’re paying more for childcare than what they’re making.”
These changes, Vittrup said, can impact future jobs available to graduates in the field.
“The stress of having to run operations on such a limited budget can cause people to leave that industry, which is unfortunate because people go into it because they have this deep commitment to working with children, helping children develop and [giving] them the best environment,” Vittrup said. “And so with the low wages, with the stress and the high turnover, unfortunately, many of them end up leaving.”
Child development professor Dr. Dimple Vadgama said that she was disheartened to learn about how her students would immediately be impacted by the loss of funding.
“I reached out to my students and I know several of them are mothers,” Vadgama said. “Some of them are single mothers, some of them have families, and just the things that they had to go through with this new routine [were] unexpected. Things like dropping their extracurricular activities and their involvement in TWU, because now they have to devote that time to either finding a job or working somewhere else to find the finances to take care of their child.”
Mental health issues and losing resume-building experiences are other consequences that Vadgama said her students face due to these sudden changes.
“When we go down Interstate 35, you see this big TWU billboard and it reads, ‘TWU, the best university for student parents,’” Vadgama said. “And now here we are, where our student parents are asking for help and support for child care responsibilities.”
Political change and emphasizing the importance of child care are ways that can help boost the department during this time, Vadgama said.
“We hope that there will be more awareness through more exposure and talking about this issue to gain more support for this program,” Vadgama said. “I would say that getting the voices of these students out there [can] support them by helping them speak up and [approach] the higher authorities […] and see if they can put a word in to get the funding.”
Featured photo by Jocelyn Truong
Jocelyn Truong can be reached via email at email@example.com.