Christina Roach-Jacobs outside of her Hug-a-Bug child care center in Westland. (Photo via Facebook)
Christina Roach-Jacobs outside of her Hug-a-Bug child care center in Westland. (Photo via Facebook)

Where laughter and play used to fill Christina Roach-Jacobs’ Westland daycare, it remained largely empty through quarantine. So did her coffers.  

WESTLAND, MI — Since March, Christina Roach-Jacobs has been out of her element. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, the busy wife and mother of four hasn’t been in the thick of running her Christian daycare, Hug-a-Bug, which she and her husband have owned and operated for over eight years in Westland. There have been no parents to greet and no tiny, warm hugs to reciprocate. No bright, toothy smiles to see and no playful children to mind.

“It’s all been sad, but I know that I am not the only one going through this,” Roach-Jacobs said. “Walking back into the empty buildings were sad, seeing the children’s belongings and the like.”

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A Different Day for Daycare

The bubbly, gregarious business owner found herself having to temporarily close up shop, and in addition to her missing the kids (who affectionately call her Ms. Tina) and furloughing her employees, Roach-Jacobs took a hit financially. She and her family are still bearing the brunt of it.

While she opened back up in May on a smaller scale to essential workers and more recently to the general public, Roach-Jacobs is still in need of support. But she’s finding that she’s not receiving it. 

“I am happy to see the noises and laughs of children again,” she said. “[But] it’s always been frustrating that the state and government really haven’t supported child care centers. The staff have degrees and make just pennies over minimum wage. You can go flip a burger and make more money per hour. You can work at Target and make more money. Teachers do this job for the love of others. It is a gifted compassion.”

Almost half of daycares, preschools, and child care facilities had to close in America due to the pandemic, according to reports. Roach-Jacobs is among the nearly 540,000 child care workers in America (according to a 2018 census) with questions on where to find financial relief for her business, but the answers aren’t coming fast enough.

A Miniscule Bailout 

President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget proposal, which includes a $1 billion child care investment, was sent on to Congress on March 11. More recently, Democrats are requesting $7 billion for child care in a recent relief package. That is also not going to be enough, according to economic experts.

“The fact that child care centers do not make a lot of money in general will be really hard on them,” Roach-Jacobs said. “If they had extra money in their account that is going to bills with no money coming, then they won’t be able to fix building issues. I know that this is my issue. Our center did not qualify for a small business loan. Not sure why.”

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Going Back in Time

For now, Roach-Jacobs is working a lot of hours for free. She is using whatever money that is coming in to maintain the daycare grounds. Her husband has never taken a paycheck since owning the business — and this was before the pandemic, when times were sometimes financially hard. 

“Our whole family worked for years every weekend and many evenings to create what’s here today,” she said. “Our family sacrificed many family events, vacations, clothing, etc. My son only had one pair of shoes that were too small with his toe hanging out.”

She added that she feels like the family is going back in time to that point.

“Almost like repeating working for free,” she said. “When opening the first time, we were not in the middle of a pandemic. Not sure what the future holds, if we will have enough children to pay the bills and staff, if people are afraid.”

She added that through it all God has been her provider and her family her backbone.

“I could have never done this without my husband and children. I have to continue to trust in God’s will for me. The unknown is not easy as I know that long-term this could result in many issues, even potentially losing all that has been invested, hurting our family financially. Especially because I still have not received unemployment for myself,” she said. 

What About the Mothers?

Despite her hardships, Roach-Jacobs still thinks of others, especially other mothers who are raising their children while quarantined while dealing with struggles of their own.

“Moms working in general have a challenge and are now raising the children with no help. Some children are suffering in different ways. Some are being abused in the homes. Moms are feeling unbalanced and inadequate,” she said. 

Jessica McCall-Kailimai, wife and mother of two very young children, knows the importance of support and what it feels like to have none. Near the beginning of the pandemic, her busy job as a social worker was transitioned online, where her workweek is filled with virtual meetings. She relied on a local daycare before the pandemic and still needs one during it. But like many other mothers, she became a teacher on top of her increasing responsibilities at home.

“Even before the pandemic, child care has been a critically necessary but burdening monthly expense for my family, especially with two young children two years old and under, who require a higher level of care with a higher staff to child ratio, which makes their tuition quite expensive,” she said. “If prices were to double or triple to mitigate the effects of revenue loss due to the pandemic, I honestly don’t think it would even be practical for me to continue to work as their tuition cost would easily match my monthly take home pay.”

She feels that the daycare industry need a bailout to not only help their operations, but assist a significant part of the workforce: mothers.

“I feel that not receiving any form of bailout would prove to be detrimental to the child care industry. If there is no bailout received, I see the child care industry taking a long time to recover from this,” McCall-Kailimai said, adding that she might be returning to work later this year. “Daycare would really be my only option for me being able to do so.”

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