Survey: 60% of Oregon families had disrupted child care during pandemic

Special Reports

The survey shows a higher percentage of families with Black and Asian children experienced a disruption in care

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — About 60% of Oregon families experienced a disruption in child care due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey shows. 

The survey, which was published April 14 by researchers from Portland State University, the Oregon Department of Education’s Early Learning Division, and OLSC Developments, Inc., collected data from more than 2,000 families with children ranging in ages from infancy to 5 years old. 

Katherine Pears, a scientist from Oregon Social Learning Center & OSLC Developments, Inc., presented the survey findings to the House Committee on Early Childhood on Monday to show how child care changed for families during the pandemic and whether their desired child care expectations are being met. 

Many families reported that amid the pandemic, the quality of care available to them was lower, but the cost was often higher. 

“[At my previous care provider] I only would have had to pay like $50 a month. And right now I’m paying $250 a month for my kids to go to somebody for two… days a week. So money-wise, it’s been a big impact,” said one participant in the survey who’s a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

While overall, 60% of survey participants said their child care was disrupted, the percentage was higher for some families of color. Nearly 74% of families with Black children and 67% of families with Asian children said their care was disrupted. 

“That seems low to me given that everything was closed,” said Rep. Karin Power, chair of the House Committee on Early Childhood, when she saw the chart. 

Pears told her that could depend on what survey participants considered to be a “disruption” during the pandemic. 

Those who lost child care during the pandemic said they experienced a “patchwork” of care and had to rely on family, friends, babysitters, and older children. 

The survey showed that there was an increased usage of in-home child care during the pandemic compared to 2019 and a decrease in usage of center-based programs. Parents said their greatest concern about sending their kids back to child care was that their children and families could be exposed to COVID-19. 

At the same time, many parents expressed great concern about their children “falling behind” when they weren’t at child care and were instead at home and isolated. 

After the presentation Monday, lawmakers took time to reassure parents. 

“Our youngest are learning right now and what they’re learning might not be the academics at the same level that they might have otherwise experienced, but they’re having experiences now that they are learning from, whether that is how to go through grief, whether that is how to be a good community member,” said Rep. Courtney Neron, D-District 26. 

Committee Vice Chair Rep. Lisa Reynolds, who is also a pediatrician, said parents need to reconsider what normal is and not worry so much about their children falling behind during this time.  

Pears told the committee her team of researchers plans to follow up with parents in several months to see if their situations have changed. She also said they just finished collecting surveys on child care providers to hear more about what the year has been like for them.

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