When the City of Seattle launched our Emergency Child Care program at the end of March, our goal was to meet the urgent need felt by essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response for reliable child care in the wake of school closures. In response to this demand, the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) mobilized Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) providers across the city, and the Emergency Child Care (ECC) program launched with 28 classrooms and more than 230 slots for preschool and school-age children.
One critical need remained—care for infants and toddlers. SPP providers, who had already adapted their preschool classrooms and programs to serve school-age children, were simply not set up to serve the very different needs of babies and toddlers. For many families with children aged 0-3, their normal care options—whether grandparents now at heightened risk or a provider whose doors had closed—were no longer available, and these essential workers were left wondering how to continue working without reliable care for their youngest children.
Enter Child Care Resources.
As operator of the statewide Child Care Aware Family Resource Center and a longtime partner for many of the City of Seattle’s early learning initiatives, Child Care Resources was aptly positioned to help fill the need for Seattle families needing infant and toddler care in the aftermath of COVID-19. In the early days of the ECC program, CCR partnered with both DEEL and King County to develop a model for expanding emergency child care for Seattle infants and toddlers as well as for the families of essential workers across the county. Using their extensive network, CCR began matching families to providers who could meet their specific needs, be it infant and toddler care, siblings of varied age groups, after-hours care, or other nontraditional needs.
“It is widely recognized that without child care, our essential workers—and all our workforce—cannot do the roles assigned to them, and we desperately need our essential workers right now,” said Phoebe Anderson, CEO of Child Care Resources. “The Emergency Child Care program through the City, County and CCR partnership is enabling these essential workers to show up each day, support our communities, and have security of mind knowing their children are well cared for.”
As CCR, the City, and King County worked through the details of launching and funding the ECC model, another hero organization entered the story. All in Seattle, a local crowdfunding phenomenon, stepped up with an offer to fund more than 50 child care slots, a total donation of $250,000.
All In Seattle was started by a group of individuals in Seattle who wanted to quickly deploy resources to those in need when the pandemic hit and businesses began shutting down. In the early days of the crisis, a total of $27 million was raised in just 72 hours and All In Seattle’s leaders began distributing funds to nonprofits serving a variety of causes, including food security, housing assistance, and workers, families, and children in need.
Emergency Child Care wasn’t the City’s only effort for which All in Seattle stepped up with a generous donation. The City’s grocery voucher program received a $450,000 boost from the group, helping to expand the program to more than 8,000 households facing food insecurity due to job loss or decreased wages due to COVID-19.
“All In Seattle was created to inspire our community to action as the impact of the crisis was just starting to be understood,” said Jill Singh, one of the group’s founding members. “As the stay at home orders set in for businesses and schools, it became clear that child care would be a huge problem both for essential workers and for any hope of re-opening.”
In the eight weeks since the Emergency Child Care program launched, additional classrooms were opened, and as of this week, 385 children have been placed in high-quality, reliable care with Seattle Preschool Program providers or in CCR’s provider network across the county. This has enabled parents who work as first responders, healthcare providers, grocery and pharmacy workers, and other essential personnel across the region to continue serving our communities.
“The effort to quickly launch an Emergency Child Care program that would serve the needs of our city’s frontline workers required a lot of hard work by a lot of people who shared a common cause: ensuring that children receive high-quality care and families have one less thing to worry about in the middle of this crisis,” said Department of Education and Early Learning Director Dwane Chappelle. “We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with Child Care Resources and the generous gift from All in Seattle that allowed us to extend the reach of this important program during the crisis.”
For more information on the Emergency Child Care program, visit our ECC page or contact DEEL at ECC@seattle.gov. For infant/toddler care, after-hours care, care outside of Seattle, or other special needs requests, please contact Child Care Resources at 206-329-5544.