Reflections on the first week of 2022
If you follow the news, you’ve heard about the child care crisis and the “great resignation.”
I fully expected things to be challenging with the omicron surge and no at home rapid tests available. We didn’t receive any updates from Public Health on how childcare or preschool should approach quarantines or isolation. On Monday, I learned of three staff who were exposed (so they were out.) Two for sure have tested positive. One of our staff on maternity leave tested positive and was in the hospital this week. We had to close a classroom on Wednesday due to lack of staff. Today, we had parents in at least three families test positive. The teacher, who is pregnant, is very worried about coming in to work. I don’t blame her. All our staff are vaccinated, but of course, they still feel anxious.
But, Covid has not been the only challenge.
In non-covid challenges: One teacher is currently in Peru dealing with a family crisis. She is there indefinitely. We hope she will come back within a month or so, but it could be a permanent leave. Another staff person who was supposed to return from maternity leave on January 3 decided that she wants to stay home with her baby. (I definitely understand, but frustrating nonetheless.) Another employee may need to leave in a month because her immigration hearings are not going smoothly. Two other employees became homeless over the break. This is a mother-daughter who are recent immigrants from Iran. They (along with the Dad and a second child) had been renting a house near our Children’s Center. They were looking for something less expensive and found a place, so they gave notice. Unfortunately, they did not sign a contract with the second rental and it was taken off the market. Their landlord of the place they were in had already rented the house, so they moved into a hotel on Jan. 1.
Last week, I attended a webinar where I learned all about the funding available for additional childcare spaces. I would love to be able to apply for that funding – but how can I apply for funding when I don’t have enough teachers to begin with? We have improved salaries and benefits, and we are a caring organization. But, working in early childhood education is brutal and feels unsafe. No wonder people are applying for the jobs I post.
I know that everyone is facing these same issues. What’s remarkable about this story is that it is not remarkable at all. It is incredibly common.
When I listen to my podcasts, I hear journalists opine about how important child care is for getting people back to work. But, they never, ever talk about how hard it is to find child care workers.
We are in a crisis.
Despite all of this, I am super proud of the work we are doing. At our last vaccine clinic, we were able to provide 657 vaccines to our community. Our next vaccine clinic is next week – January 11. We are doing our part to end this pandemic.
Finally, I had such a humbling moment this week. The first week of January can be an exciting time in a non-profit. It’s the week we often receive the donations that people sent in over the vacation. Sure enough, I had a pile of envelopes to open this week. It’s always great to see big numbers on the checks! But one gift hit me in the heart. The envelope was unmarked, but inside were six one-dollar bills. I’m pretty sure this was sent in by a client. The families in our children’s center also received our end of year appeal. I am sure this anonymous gift was a big stretch for whoever sent it in.
I feel really grateful to have meaningful work to do. Sometimes it’s overwhelming (like this week.) Sometimes, the challenges (like staffing) seem insurmountable. But, I never wonder if my life has purpose or meaning. I want to thank you for being part of my life.
I want to wish you a happy and healthy new year! May 2022 be a good year.
Executive Director, Isla Vista Youth Projects