Vanco, a leading provider of technology and payment solutions for the education, faith-based and nonprofit sectors, announced today that it has acquired Smartcare, a growing provider of management software for child care centers.
We’re experts at building software, not politics. So, we can’t prognosticate about the likelihood that any of these changes is enacted or whether they should be. But, if changes in government programs could happen, we thought it was worthwhile to understand what those changes could look like. Here’s our analysis:
During the presidential election campaign, the Biden campaign included on its website several proposals for childcare. The proposal builds on the proposed Child Care for Working Families Act sponsored by Senator Murray and Congressman Scott.
Both proposals include provisions to provide federal funding and state requirements to offer pre-kindergarten for all 3- and 4-years old children. Importantly, the most recent proposal includes a provision that would allow existing preschool providers to participate in this program, meaning a private or non-profit provider could qualify for funding just like a school district, for this program. What we think this means is that current providers of preschool and childcare for 3- and 4-year-old children will need to ensure that they’re compliant with the program – namely with respect to tracking and reporting attendance, incidents, and learning assessments – and will need the ability to invoice government agencies for reimbursement. It likely also means that many parents who pay for care for children in those age ranges would switch from private paid to government paid, or some combination of the two because it’s likely the government funding will only cover a portion of the day.
Refundable Tax Credit
Both proposals include a provision that would provide a refundable tax credit to families in an amount equal to what the family paid for childcare in excess of 7% of the family’s income. This would increase the need for childcare providers to give parents accurate and timely tax statements. Perhaps more interestingly though, it also makes childcare more affordable for families without reducing tuition which suggest some families who do not have children in childcare today may be able to afford it and/or families may be able to expand the use of childcare with an existing provider. This trend should be a big positive for the industry because it would increase utilization without reducing tuition.
Both proposals include provisions for bonus payments to childcare providers in certain circumstances. The bonus payments would be in addition to subsidy payments or parent payments. The circumstances envisioned include care during nontraditional working hours and care for children with special needs. We think these bonus payments would make programs more financially viable. For example, bonus payments for care during nontraditional working hours would allow a school to pay teachers more during those hours, attracting staff while maintaining profitability.
Extend CCDBG Funding to Afterschool
Both proposals include a provision that would allow Child Care Development Block Grant funding to be used for after school care for children up to the age of 13, rather than just for preschool age children. This would likely allow for expanding enrollment in after school programs. It would require those programs to track attendance and have the ability to invoice state agencies that distribute CCDBG funding which are likely capabilities most after school programs do not have today.
As we said at the beginning of this article, we’re not political experts, so we don’t what, if any of these changes will be enacted. We hope that our summary of the most likely changes and the implications those changes would have for your childcare center or after school program is helpful.
As a company submerged in the world of child care, we know how vital child care providers are to our economy. Child care is essential for working parents. Additionally, students who attend high quality child care facilities early in life develop stronger skills, are less likely to require special education classes, and are more likely to earn higher wages and have fewer interactions with the justice system as adults.
With an ongoing pandemic and an upcoming election, what does that mean for the future of child care? The answer relies on Millennials and Gen Z.
Millennials make up roughly 35% of the workforce, which makes their generation the largest generation in the U.S. labor force (source). Gen Z, while up and coming into the workforce, is reported as the hardest hit for job loss before and during the pandemic (source). The child care industry should look to these two generations to understand where the industry is headed.
Where do the younger generation’s priorities lie?
- According to Next100 and GenForward, 81 percent of young adults (in these two generations) believe that access to affordable, high-quality child care is an important issue.
- 72 percent of respondents said that the lack of high-quality child care programs and their cost is a barrier to achieving their professional goals.
- This data is confirmed by the United States Census Bureau, which finds that one in five of working adults said they are not working is because COVID-19 disrupted their child care arrangements.
- Of those not working, women ages 25-44 are almost three times as likely as men to not be working due to child care demands.
- Millennials have also been slower to establish households than previous generations have been. They tend to get married and have children later in life. However, Millennials now make up the majority of annual U.S. births. If this trend continues into Gen Z, Millennials and Gen Z will be a topic of the child care industry for years to come.
How does cost factor in?
- More than half of families report that they spend at least $10,000 per year on child care.
- Many spend close to 24,000 per year on child care, nearly half of the average family income in the U.S.
- With younger generations coming out of college and into the workforce with increasing student loan debt and rising rent prices, it stands to reason that the cost of child care would be a large factor in an employment decision.
How could the election affect the future of child care?
- Child care is a topic that transcends party lines. Young Democrats, Republicans and Independents all agree that child care is important. 86 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents identified child care as an important issue.
- A whopping 92 percent of those surveyed from Care.com indicated that child care is a topic they feel should get more attention from the government as a result of the pandemic. 71 percent of families say that child care policies will impact how they vote in the upcoming election.
- The Child Care is Essential Act, the Child Care for Working Families act and presidential candidate Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan could potentially add millions of dollars into the child care industry, expanding access for millions of families.
Younger generations are coming into the workforce and creating families in massive numbers. This means that Millennials and Gen Z’s employment decisions will be dependent on the child care industry for the foreseeable future. With COVID-19 and job loss among this demographic, cost and accessibility will be huge issues for those re-joining the workforce. These groups are now having families, so it’s no surprise that they will demand more affordable and accessible care. In an upcoming election year, the future of child care will be a hot topic with one of the largest groups of voting age.
COVID-19 is known for being dangerous because it is primarily spread through respiratory droplets. However, it is also possible to catch the virus from certain surfaces. It can live on plastic from a few hours to a few days. That is why it is imperative that every teacher know the safest ways to clean toys and which toys to leave out of the classroom. Smartcare has compiled a list of helpful tips from the CDC specifically for childcare workers.
Any toy that has been placed in a child’s mouth or contaminated by body secretions or excretions should be set aside until it can be properly cleaned by someone wearing gloves. They should follow these steps:
- Clean with water and detergent
- Sanitize with EPA-registered disinfectant
- Rinse again
- Air dry the toy
Each of the toys should be kept to a specific classroom. Toys should not be passed to a different group before being washed and sanitized.
Unfortunately, you cannot wash books. However, the CDC has deemed books not a high risk for transmitting the virus. Your classrooms should be completely fine to have as many books as you wish.
Fabric toys such as stuffed animals are fine to keep in the classroom as long as they are not passed between the kids. It is best for each child to have their own fabric toy that they keep through the entirety of the day.
Once a child has used a toy, they should not share it until it has been properly washed. The toy needs to be kept in a container of soapy water. This way the teachers are aware which toys have been used. This container must be kept out of reach of children for a risk of drowning.
Lastly, any toy that you feel cannot be fully cleaned and sanitized should not be used.
Smartcare believes strongly that education in general and childcare in particular are entering a “new normal”. What this means is that many of the common practices in place before COVID-19 will need to be replaced with practices better suited to current challenges.
One of the first things that we think the student will change is the check-in process.
In the pre-COVID era, the process typically involved a parent entering a common space like a lobby, interacting with a fingerprint scanner to authenticate themselves, and then handing off a child to a staff member.
Before COVID, Smartcare modernized this process with the use of touchless QR codes, and while removing a fingerprint scanner dramatically reduces contact points, we think the process can be better.
We think the best practice in the new normal will look something like this:
- Families will queue in socially distanced location such as the family’s car in a drop-off line in front of the school.
- Either the parent or the student’s teacher will complete a pre-drop-off health-check. The CDC has provided guidance and we anticipate that guidance will evolve over time. At this time, those guidelines include:
- Temperature checks for fevers over 100.4 degrees.
- Signs of illness including coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, extreme fussiness, nausea
- Technology can automate validating the health-check to ensure it meets regulatory requirements and the school’s own preferences. A child who poses a risk to others never enters the facility, and so that staff and parents have the peace of mind that their child is a in a safe environment.
- The student’s teacher can take custody of the child in a well-ventilated, socially-separated space such as directly from the child’s car in a drop-off line, and escort the child directly to a classroom. From here, the child will stay with classmates and remain isolated from other classes in the school, minimizing contact points along the way. This ensures separation from other students in other classes.
- Within a school, classes should be kept as separate as possible. Where common areas must be shared, to the extent possible, those areas should be used by only one class at a time and disinfected between uses. All areas and toys should be disinfected regularly.
Where the above procedure isn’t possible, we recommend the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and barriers to minimize the exposure to staff and families.
Smartcare has functionality to support the new normal in your center and our team of customer success managers can help you update your procedures for the new normal. We have a report to help you track health checks and our teacher app allows for touchless check-in wherever its best suited for you to do so. You should expect improvements from us over the summer as we get more feedback.
We are committed to be your technology partner as we navigate into the new normal together.
Fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with the anxiety and stress will make you, your families and those around you stronger. Anxiety symptoms can include excessive worrying, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and difficulty concentrating.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations depending on their background, age or community. People who are high risk, considered essential employees or who have prior mental health conditions tend to respond to crisis stress more strongly.
Tips for coping with stress and anxiety
- Take a break from watching, reading or listening to news stories about COVID-19. Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can be upsetting.
- Take care of your mental and physical health with meditation, healthy meals and exercise.
- Take time to engage in activities you enjoy.
- Talk to people you trust about your concerns and fears. Share the facts about COVID-19 to understand the risks. This can make an outbreak less stressful.
- Call your healthcare provider if your stress and anxiety gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
For parents and childcare providers
Children tend to react on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and childcare providers deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children.
Be sure to watch for changes in behavior in a child. Not all children respond to stress in the same way. Some things to look out for may include excessive crying, returning behaviors they have previously outgrown, “acting out”, difficulty with attention and concentration or avoiding activities they previously enjoyed.
Here are some ideas to help support children:
- Take time to talk about the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Answer questions and share facts about the outbreak in a way the child can understand.
- Reassure the child that they are safe and that it is okay to feel upset or scared.
- Limit exposure to news coverage, including social media as children could misinterpret what they hear.
- Keep up with a regular routine. If school is closed, set schedules for learning, relaxing and fun activities.
- Be a role model for your children. Eat well, exercise, take breaks and stay connected with friends and family.
During these times, you need to take care of your mental health. Make your mental health a priority and don’t let anxiety and stress consume you. Be sure to reach out to a trained professional if your or your child’s stress and anxiety consumes you. Remember that you are not alone and this will pass.