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In Texas, child-care providers are returning to a broken system

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States have gotten millions of dollars in federal aid for child care, the first major infusion in decades. But only a handful are using it to overhaul their child-care systems.
Parks, Casey
Press release
Publication Date: 
27 Jun 2022


STAMFORD, Tex. — A few minutes before the mayor arrived, BriTanya Bays ducked into the bathroom. She had crumbs on her blouse and a light stain she couldn’t diagnose, but hey, she told herself: That was the uniform when you worked with children.

She reached to the back of a drawer, pulled out a bottle of foundation she hadn’t used in a year and smeared a dab of cocoa-shaded L’Oreal across her cheeks.

“I don’t know what I’m trying to do with this look,” she said, sighing. “I just really want things to feel better this time.”

She’d advertised this morning, a Friday in late February, as the official unveiling of Our Loving Village, a licensed child-care program she planned to run out of her home. Technically, it was a reopening. Bays had started the business years earlier. She’d never earned much, but her revenue dwindled to nothing during the pandemic, and at the end of 2021, she’d decided to shut down.

The stress of losing her business caused Bays, 26, to develop sleep apnea and a heart arrhythmia. The only way she knew to stay sane was to research the problem, and so Bays had learned that more than 111,000 people left their child-care jobs during the pandemic — a tenth of the workforce. That mass exodus had left at least 6.5 million families across the nation without stable child care, census data from the spring of 2021 showed. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation estimated that child-care breakdowns cost Texas $9.39 billion a year in lost income and tax revenue.

Lawmakers called this a crisis. They agreed to spend tens of billions of federal dollars to stabilize programs like Bays’s, and President Biden introduced a plan to send out more. The country would fix its child-care problems, Biden promised, and so Bays had decided to give Our Loving Village one more go.