The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented disruptions to children, families, and child care and early education (CCEE) programs. The effects of the pandemic on CCEE programs were profound, and the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated program differences (e.g., source of revenue and availability of supports) by program setting and funding.1 Many CCEE programs shut down in the early months of the pandemic (i.e., Spring 2020) due to state or local stayat-home orders in response to the spread of the virus, and reduced enrollment and staffing. Nationally, 63 percent of child care centers and 27 percent of family child care (FCC) homes were closed in Spring 2020.2 Yet, some programs remained open to care for children.
Among programs that were open, enrollment decreased significantly due to public health measures (e.g., reduced capacity for social distancing) or parents’ concerns about contracting COVID-19 at CCEE programs.3 Program closures, coupled with drops in enrollment and attendance, made it difficult for CCEE programs to generate enough revenue to cover their operating expenses, and some providers decided to permanently close their programs. Providers who temporarily closed continued facing challenges to re-open. These program closures may have lasting impacts on CCEE systems. For example, families served by programs that closed need to find alternative arrangements for their children. With fewer programs available, it may be harder for families to find CCEE that meets their needs and preferences.
The purpose of this research highlight is to describe how the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic affected CCEE program closures (both permanent or temporary) and enrollment, and how the impacts differed by program setting, funding, and family characteristics. Understanding how CCEE programs were affected by the pandemic can help guide CCEE leaders in deciding how best to support CCEE programs and address pre-existing inequities that were heightened by the pandemic (e.g., limited access to affordable care for families with low incomes). We also highlight some of the government’s relief efforts that supported CCEE programs during the first year of the pandemic.
This brief is part of the Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA) project. CCEEPRA supports policy and program planning and decision-making with rigorous, research-based information.
1 Weiland, C. et al. (2021). Historic crisis, historic opportunity: Using evidence to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on young children and early care and education programs. Education Policy Initiative, University of Michigan and Urban Institute. https://edpolicy.umich.edu/sites/epi/files/uploads/EPI-UI-Covid%20Synthesis%20Brief%20June%202021.pdf
2 Office of Inspection General. (2020). National snapshot of state agency approaches to child care during the COVID-19 pandemic. https://oig.hhs.gov/oas/reports/region7/72006092.pdf
3 Weiland, C. et al. (2021). Historic crisis, historic opportunity: Using evidence to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on young children and early care and education programs. Education Policy Initiative, University of Michigan and Urban Institute. https://edpolicy.umich.edu/sites/epi/files/uploads/EPI-UI-Covid%20Synthesis%20Brief%20June%202021.pdf
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