Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Check out this new feature from WBUR radio that is aptly titled: “We asked 8 child care workers about their joys and frustrations. Here’s what they said.”

It’s part of a week-long series on early education and care.

This particular article and audio clip features:

Bernadette Davidson

Kiya Savannah

Vanessa Pashkoff (whom we’ve blogged about)

Kimberly Artez

Llanet Montoya

Anna Rogers

Kitt Cox, and

Stacia Buckmann

WBUR asks these early educators to discuss “the joys and challenges of working in this industry, and why some are leaving the profession,” as the field grapples with challenges.

“The child care workforce in Massachusetts is about 12% smaller today than it was before the start of the pandemic, according to a recent analysis from the University of California, Berkeley,” WBUR explains.

“Fewer workers mean providers can’t care for as many kids. According to a Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care report released in May, the state is operating at about 92% of its pre-pandemic capacity — with around 640 fewer licensed providers available.”

Among the common themes that run through these interviews is how to cope with the low salaries that early educators earn.

So while Llanet Montoya says she loves her job, she adds that Covid has taken a toll and so has inflation.

She adds, “I don’t have insurance. I don’t have vacation time. I only have five personal days that I can take each year.”

“Thank God I have my husband’s salary.”

Low pay was also what drove Anna Rogers to leave early education and get a job in a public school. 

“You cannot work in child care and have your own house,” Rogers tells WBUR. “You can barely, if you’re lucky, have an apartment to yourself. It’s impossible to do this job without another support system.”

And while early educators are struggling with low pay, parents are struggling with early education and care’s high costs. 

“The only way I can see this working is if it gets subsidized somehow,” Rogers says. “The burden on the parents needs to be lifted, and the burden on the workers needs to be lifted.”

Kitt Cox, one of the rare men who work in early education, spoke about how much the field has changed.

“Over the last four decades, he witnessed a remarkable evolution in early education,” WBUR says. “A wealth of new research showed the importance of the first few years of life for a child’s brain development, and how it shapes their adult lives. This research has informed much of today’s training in early education.

“ ‘We’re much, much better. Much smarter,’ he says. ‘Nowadays, especially in Massachusetts, we’ve built a system that requires people to know something about kids and know something about parents.’ ”

To hear more from these early educators, tune in!

And check out the other stories in the series:

Why child care in Massachusetts costs so much

How child care can build kids’ brains, one interaction at a time

Child care is a problem for employers, too. Now more of them want solutions

Child care is in crisis. Here’s what’s being done about it (featuring Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children)

Also, please share this terrific reporting through your personal and social media contacts!