There is a national childcare crisis, and programs are looking for ways to alleviate some of the problems families face when trying to secure childcare.
Some parents have to wait between nine and twelve months to secure a place on a waiting list. To help solve this problem, programs are turning to educating refugees and immigrants to get them into the labor market.
“As refugees and immigrants come into our economy, we want them to get into jobs properly,” said Deborah Young, co-founder of Pamoja Early Childhood Education. “It’s 27,000 teachers missing, so this is a great match. We have a huge talent pool and we need it.”
The Pamoja Early Childhood Education staff program is made up of refugees and immigrants from around the world to serve as a pipeline for new early childhood educators.
One of them is Fatima Jafari from Afghanistan.
“I have been studying early childhood education and working as a teacher at the center for two years,” said Jafari. “The program is so important to all the women in my community. They come to the United States and they need to learn how to communicate with the children and how to live in the United States in a new environment. They also have to learn to raise their children in a new country.”
Nearly 9,000 daycare centers in 37 states closed between 2019 and 2021, according to a study by Child Care Aware of America. Although there are also fewer daycare centers, the cost of childcare centers across the country has increased by an average of 41%.
That’s why Pamoja Early Childhood is empowering refugees and immigrants by not only providing them with the education to start a new life in this country, but also helping to reduce childcare shortages and empowering diverse people in the industry .
“We need childcare, and we don’t have enough childcare. We don’t have enough childcare workers, largely because we don’t even pay professional wages or living wages,” Young said. “By truly investing in our refugees and immigrants to get higher education, acquire the credentials and knowledge, and enter the workforce, they contribute in one way or another to our society. Let’s get them to contribute in a way that creates greater wellbeing for everyone in our communities.”
According to the CDC, 94% of childcare workers are women, and 40% of them are black.
“Right now, almost two years ago, I started studying the children,” Jafari said. “One of my kids is a little late but I just want to learn a lot about the behavior and learn how to brain grow for him. Also, I want to help others who have kids like me and I can help them.”
“We want nannies to speak the same language and look the same as the child,” Young said. “We want children’s identities to be truly secure in who they are, who their family is, and what their background and historical context is. And most teachers and leaders look like me.”
The developers of this program believe that including women of color who speak multiple languages can help provide the country with more childcare opportunities and bridge cultural differences, while also bridging the job shortage gap.