From the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, states have played a vital role in responding to the needs of early care and education (ECE) programs and the children and families they serve. In a new brief, ChildTrends offers guidance to state leaders on how to use provider surveys to ensure an equity-focused, data-driven response to the pandemic in an ever-changing environment. The resource includes sample questions and racial equity considerations for states to use as they develop the surveys, as well as how the data collected can be used to respond to providers’ shifting needs and circumstances.
The resource is structured around three phases of recovery to ensure the surveys produce timely and useful information:
- Stabilization – Meet immediate needs and minimize spread of the virus.
- Rebuild – Refine and develop new policies to address the loss of child care providers.
- Grow and Strengthen – Implement new policies and practices that strengthen ECE programs, the workforce, and families.
Questions in the Stabilization phase should hone in on programs’ financial stability, the supply and demand of care for essential workers, and ECE workforce availability. Shifting into the Rebuild phase, the survey should look at how to support existing providers, as well as how to expand the workforce in response to permanent provider closures. In the Grow and Strengthen phase, questions should focus on ongoing supports to help improve the overall condition and quality of ECE programs.
While the brief acknowledges that these phases may look different from state to state and even within states, they help provide a structure for leaders to think through how needs may change over time. Additionally, the brief emphasizes the need for leaders to prioritize racial and ethnic equity as they move through the phases and provides examples of challenges facing providers and families of color that are exacerbated by the pandemic.
To ensure their utility, the brief recommends that surveys be conducted regularly; connected to administrative data or used to supplement such data; include race, ethnicity, and other demographic information; and collect input from families with young children. Finally, states should connect with research partners and staff from other states to expand capacity and the scope of information available and be transparent about how data will be used and protected.
The full brief is available from ChildTrends here.