As this paper was being written, school systems across the country were increasingly announcing plans for full or partial distance learning to respond to COVID-19, and it seems likely that more school systems may implement these plans should the pandemic surge in the fall or winter. As a result, working parents with school-age children are faced with the challenge of how to ensure that their children are in a safe learning setting while they work—a challenge that is even more daunting for families with low incomes, families who face greater health risks, and families who face inequities in access to educational and health resources as well as employment options. Unfortunately, these challenges are even greater because the pandemic has seriously constrained before- and after-school programs along with the center-based and home-based child care settings that usually provide after-school and child care supports to working parents.
This working paper gives an overview of the key issues and challenges facing both parents and after-school programs and child care providers as they try to ensure that school-age children are safe, supervised, and able to engage in quality distance learning while their parents work. It then lists policy strategies that policymakers could implement to better support these families and caregivers. These policy areas include cross-system coordination and collaboration, funding, child care subsidies, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, child care licensing, grants, training and technical assistance, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.