Developing a “new normal” for children and families

Durham, N.C. – Aug. 4, 2020 – The novel coronavirus has illuminated the inequities and disparities in our nation’s systems of care, and these deficiencies are having an enormous impact on children. The pandemic has brought about a rise in domestic abuse, increasing children’s exposure to violence and psychosocial stress. Children are also facing unprecedented learning losses due to widespread school and childcare closures.

A Center for Child and Family Policy brief released today states that “by the end of April, an estimated 42% of North Carolina licensed childcare facilities were closed… [and] roughly 61% of childcare spaces were vacant across all centers,” making the lives of working parents more challenging. The authors highlight the shortcomings in the systems that support children and families—noting that these issues are compounded by historic racial inequalities—and offer recommendations for a new approach that focuses on equity.

Four key actions will help communities heal and build stronger, more equitable systems:

  1. Create a “new” public health system centered upon a universal approach to care with a focus on equity.
  2. Invest in early childhood systems to maintain and strengthen childcare providers in the long term.
  3. Invest in K-12 education to minimize educational loss caused by the pandemic.
  4. Expand the social safety net to be robust enough to keep families afloat during an economic crisis.

A number of immediate and sustained actions that can help us build better and more equitable systems for children and families include:

  • Create a universal healthcare system with coordinated support to acknowledge and address disparities in access to health service and treatment.
  • Invest in early childhood systems and K-12 education by providing technological, financial, and emotional support to shepherd the youngest generation of students through unprecedented times.
  • Develop school curricula that center around trauma-informed practices to address both children’s and educators’ stressors brought on by the pandemic and everyday life.
  • Expand and roll out economic supports for families, including, but not limited to, paid sick leave, increased food access programs, and childcare grants for families.

“This is the time to reimagine our systems and design programs and policies that focus on child and family well-being for all families,” says Kimberly Friedman, policy engagement and analysis director for Family Connects International. “Taking this type of approach can create an equitable future for children and families.”

Download the full report, “New Normal” for Children and Families: Developing a Universal Approach with a Focus on Equity.