Vaccinations Open Possibilities for Child Care Workers and Families
By Ashley Miznazi
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — For many college students, child care provides a stream of income with flexibility for school and internships. When people began to shut their doors to strangers during the pandemic, both child care workers and families had to adjust.
Adrienne Anderson has a 7-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son. She regularly hires people to watch her kids during evenings or weekends.
“I’ve never been one to shy from finding people I trust to help out,” Anderson said.
Anderson said she had some child care help before COVID-19 vaccines became available, but kept windows and fans on, required mask-wearing in the house, and requested everyone wash their hands frequently.
“My kids are small,” she said. “It’s not like I can give them a laptop and a television and go. I mean, they need supervision and they need some guidance. Trying to balance that out was really difficult.”
UT psychology junior Lauren O’Brien said she noticed Chi O Babysitters!, a Facebook group that connects current UT Austin Chi Omega sorority members with Chi Omega alumni for babysitting opportunities, has had more job requests in recent months.
Since receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in January, O’Brien said she has had an extra layer of comfort taking on jobs.
“It was really easy to see the stages of people getting more comfortable with people coming to babysit their children. At first it was like, ‘OK, you can come if you’ve had COVID’ and now it’s if you’ve had the vaccine.” O’Brien said.
Casey Walker noticed a similar pattern in the “YL Babysitting” GroupMe. The group typically had multiple requests for child care help every week but fell silent during the early months of the pandemic.
Walker found herself in a different position than her peers and took on a full-time nanny job after graduating UT May 2020.
“There seemed to be a process of elimination where people would be like, ‘On a scale of one to five, are you on the same level of COVID as I am? And if so, then let’s talk and let’s work.’ So that’s how I ended up working for this nanny family that I’ve been with for now approaching a year.” Walker said.
The Economic Policy Institute’s research reveals the average annual cost of child care in Texas is $777 a month, which is 8% more than in-state college tuition.
Walker has a deal with her parents to pay for 40% of her rent, utilities, and day-to-day needs. Nannying paid her $1,200 every two weeks.
“I mean, honestly it’s really good money. A lot of families here in Austin will pay to have to know the comfort of having their kids taken care of.” Walker said.
Walker tested positive for COVID-19 last Summer. She was unable to return to her nanny job until getting a negative test result, which took weeks after her contagion period. She found herself financially strained with her last month’s lease approaching.
“Honestly, I can’t blame them,” Walker said.
“I can’t blame myself, but it was a little bit frustrating because I was kind of in like a shambles area. Definitely an extra stressor that I wish was not had during the time of having the world’s deadliest disease or whatever.”
UT Natural Sciences professor Karrol Kitt specializes in the business side of households. She said child care jobs that don’t pay taxes have little legal recourse for things like paid time off.
“It’s one of the, I guess, downsides or negatives against the sector work and having no health insurance, medical insurance so that you can continue to have some sick leave.” Kitt said.
Walker eventually tested negative and returned to work with the family. Now vaccinated, she has taken on additional jobs with families she worked for previously.
For parents like Anderson, allowing child care back in her home is not just a job for the nanny, but a nice mental relief for Mom and Dad.
“I think finding trustworthy child care is really important, because the parent relationship needs to be nurtured, and having time to go to dinner or go on a walk, just the two of you.” she said.