In the hope of bringing attention to the specific and prolonged challenges families of young children have faced since shelter in place (SIP), in Spring 2021 (March-May) First 5 Contra Costa invited First 5 families, First 5 partner families, and a survey panel of families (created by Applied Survey Research, or ASR) to participate in a second COVID-19 survey.
The 2021 survey assessed changes in the stability of parents’ employment and income, demand for childcare, family concerns, supports, and resource needs, as well as parents’ thinking and actions around COVID-19 vaccination. We also investigated structural disparities in outcomes, focusing on differences in adverse outcomes of the pandemic by income and by race/ethnicity.
The learnings of this survey are intended to inform comprehensive, cross-sector solutions that are responsive to the complex, profound challenges of families of young children, and promote equitable solutions that address the pronounced needs of systemically under-resourced, low-income families and families of color.
Key takeaways from our findings include:
- Financial pressures leading to tough choices: Parents are experiencing intersecting challenges around loss of employment due to the pandemic, requisite loss of income, and loss of childcare. For families of color and low-income families, the adversity of loss of employment and income is only more pronounced. At the same time, parents are negotiating the financial tradeoffs of rejoining the workforce. Many parents lost childcare during the pandemic and are now facing difficult choices around whether they can get a job that would pay enough to cover childcare they would then need.
- Prolonged and compounding stress: Parents’ and children’s mental health is also of great concern. Parents reported stress, anxiety, and depression as primary concerns for themselves, while also citing social isolation as a chief concern for their children.
- Concrete policy actions County agencies can take: Cash assistance, debt forgiveness, and free or affordable childcare ranked high for parents; however, responses were fairly well distributed across the options, indicating many opportunities for the County to be responsive to the particular needs and asks of parents with young children.
We at First 5 Contra Costa invite our public agency and community-based organization colleagues to leverage this data as they determine priority responses to supporting young children and families in the wake of this pandemic, including:
- A responsive, trauma-informed and agile system of mental health supports for families
- Viable, affordable childcare as parents return to work
- Community hubs such as family resource centers where parents can find support, connection, and resource navigation
- Community-driven recommendations that address root causes of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black and brown communities