State Rep. Jay Livingstone knows firsthand the challenges of finding child care in the age of COVID-19, and he also knows from talking to constituents that his dilemma is far from unique.
“Before the pandemic hit, my wife and I were both working work full time and had child care, but the facility closed shortly before the Governor issued his state of emergency, and it has been closed ever since,” he said. “It’s been very difficult for my wife and myself to balance taking care of our kids and being very busy at our jobs.”
Rep. Livingstone and his wife, Julie, an employee of the Boston real estate development firm HYM Investment Group who is currently working from home, are the parents of two children – Henry, age 4, and Harry, 18 months old – and like many throughout the Commonwealth, they now find themselves without consistent child care.
Of around 2,000 respondents statewide to date in an ongoing survey conducted by the Boston nonprofit Strategies for Children, around 88 percent said they would be hesitant to resume child care due to health concerns. According to initial results from the survey, 60 percent of respondents said they are struggling to work from home without child care while 46 percent said they wouldn’t be able to return to work without consistent child care services. And while nearly 70 percent of respondents said they hoped to return to the same child care arrangements they had before the pandemic hit, there is no assurance these programs will reopen or have the capacity to welcome all families back.
“K-12 schools are closed for the year, child care is closed until the end of June, and it’s unclear if summer camps can open and, if so, under what circumstances,” Rep. Livingstone said.
And he believes this situation will only be exasperated as the economy reopens.
“There are lots of aspects to closing the economy and reopening it separate and apart from the health crisis we need to be thoughtful about, and childcare is one of them,” Rep. Livingstone said. “For parents to return to work without having options for taking care of their kids isn’t going to work out, and it will be more of an issue as we start reopening parts of the economy.”
Despite the child-care dilemma many parents and guardians now face, Rep. Livingstone commends Gov. Charlie Baker for making an exception for the Commonwealth’s first-responders and essential workers.
“I think the Governor recognized that when he shut down day-care facilities, but still kept some open for first-responders so those who still need to work have a place where their kids could be taken care of,” he said.
Another childcare option is to have the provider come to your home, but this arrangement is too costly for many while available caregivers are now in short supply.
“There is the option of having someone come to your house to provide childcare, but not everyone can take advantage of that, and there isn’t an unlimited market of people to provide child care in that way,” Rep. Livingstone said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Livingstone’s constituents have expressed gratitude to him for continuing to disseminate information pertaining to educational opportunities for children via his Dispatch e-newsletter.
“There’s been lots of positive feedback and suggestions for more resources, which I try to share,” Rep. Livingstone said.